End of the Rope: Mountains, Marriage, and Motherhood
After a series of doomed romances, Jan falls in love with an affable, hard-core Banff climber, Dan, and enrolls in university with plans to become a teacher. But her world falls apart when Dan is killed in an avalanche, and she succumbs, once again, to the lure of rescue. A day after Dan’s memorial, she grieves in the arms of another man: a logger and extreme alpinist, Grant. Not long after, she discovers she’s pregnant. Terrified of being alone, she accepts a grudging offer of marriage and abandons her education and climbing, hoping a baby will ease her grief and soften her taciturn mountain man. Against her better judgment, and in spite of paralyzing unhappiness, she digs herself deeper into the marriage. They buy a house on an acreage in the mountains, get a dog and cat, have a second baby, and slip into their parents’ rigid roles: Grant, the provider, working in the bush as a logger, Jan, the housewife and mother. While she clings to her dream of university and autonomy, he clings to his dream of climbing big mountains – dreams that pit them against each other. As her marriage unravels, Jan realizes no one can save her and her children but herself. She has to get her gumption back. She has to transform herself into the kind of person who can seize her dream, just like she transformed herself into a climber. It takes five years and many small acts of courage, but finally, her need to grow surpasses her need to feel safe. She packs up her twenty-month old son and five-year old daughter and drives off to the city, trading in her marriage and home in the mountains for the biggest adventure of her life: university and single motherhood.
Jan Redford, author
Jan Redford lives in Squamish, B.C. with her family. Her work has been published in The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Mountain Life, Explore, several anthologies, and has won or been short—and long-listed in eight writing contests. Her story, “End of the Rope”, an excerpt from her memoir, was published in 2013 with the Banff Press in Rock, Paper, Fire: Best of Mountain and Wilderness Writing. She is a graduate of The Writer’s Studio at SFU (2007), and UBC’s MFA program in Creative Writing (2015).