Note: Today marks seven years since my dear friend Adam M. Lawton left this world. His presence is still felt, and he continues to inspire. This piece was from my first book, Climbing Out of Bed, something I really wish Adam could have seen go to print, because he supported my work so much, and really believed in me, before I actually believed in me. We love you Adam.
Last Thoughts on Adam Lawton
Adam Lawton has been in my thoughts for all my waking hours since he was killed in an avalanche on January 6th, 2012, in British Columbia. I’ve wanted to write about him since it happened, but I’ve been unable to. There is a time and place to write, just like Allen Ginsberg once said, “I won’t write my poem till I’m in my right mind.”
Those of you who knew Adam are feeling his departure in one way or another. He was a great man and a great friend, the type of individual I wish there were more of in this sometimes harsh world. He was a light. He was a leader. He encouraged thinking and questioning, but never spent so much time doing those things that he annoyed or did not live to the utmost extent. He loved skiing, running, biking, climbing and floating down rivers. He loved women. He loved good food. He loved yoga. He loved life and shared that love so much that it grew exponentially in all our hearts, and will continue to grow.
I first met Adam at Western State College in 2000, and we’d been paired up to deliver a presentation on Leave No Trace for a Recreation class. I couldn’t even begin to recall the specifics of what we discussed during our meeting in the College Union, but I do remember that he possessed a lust for living, and a hunger to learn more about the world and pursue that knowledge in an experiential way. I got a feeling that we were both in college, in Gunnison, not simply to get a degree for a certain amount of knowledge of a career path, but to access higher learning in the great outdoors, with a community of people that shared this hunger for living life to the fullest.
Over the years, Adam and I grew closer, and in a roundabout way, we ended up sharing all the same friends in the Gunnison Valley. Like minded people have a way of finding one another. I remember one day in Crested Butte, he was describing his life, “I feel like every day is the best day of my life. I thought yesterday was the best day of my life, and then today was the best day of my life.” It was just the opposite of the scene in Office Space where the main character is describing every day as being the worst day of his life. The mountains were Adam’s rightful home, and he was happy in the mountains.
Eventually, Adam moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, to pursue an even higher education, at a graduate program at the University of Utah, and the powder of the nearby Wasatch Mountains. I remember him quoting another skier, “The license plates don’t lie,” talking about the slogan written on the Utah plates, Greatest Snow on Earth.
I passed through Salt Lake City in my post collegiate wanderings of the west more than once, and Adam was a most hospitable host. He always had various new friends and new stories to tell. One year, while passing through Salt Lake, I ended up running out of money there, and had to get a job. His hospitality never wavered and he let me crash on his couch as often as needed.
He loved skiing so much, I am in awe of how he excelled at climbing, biking, running and river activities. Last I talked to him, he was excited about the idea of long, ultra running races. He always seemed to remain passionate about skiing, while also doing something new, and he always wanted to share that passion.
Adam was interested in so many things, and now, in retrospect, I wish I’d taken notes about our conversations. He had an open mind, the true definition of an open mind, maybe so much that his mind was continually expanding. He was certainly into mind expansion. His heart was ever expanding as well, and I think the greatest advice he ever told me was to breathe.
We’re all grieving over you, Adam, and I felt the huge loss of your departure in the weeping of all our shared friends as the news broke that you’d been killed in an avalanche. Everyone is dealing with it differently; people deal with death in different ways. In some way, we’ll never be the same without you. We are better for having known you. The world is a better place because you lived. We hope to see you again, and your spirit is always with us. I can feel it right now as these tears spill onto my keyboard.