My Book

Book: An Extraordinary Normal — Tools for the Living

Lorca's Book

This forthcoming book, An Extraordinary Normal — Tools for the Living, started with pillars and has fanned out into mosaic.

The almost three decades of my life since I survived the fatal accident in 1986 on Mt. Hood that took the lives of nine people have been marked by the active stocking of a personal toolbox — mental, emotional, spiritual and physical skills, practices, beliefs, mindsets, games, exercises, experiences — all specifically and experimentally and defiantly gathered to create myself as a beautifully resilient being in a lifetime that will never guarantee security.

What is a sustainably strong being?  This has not been an academic task but one that came from the pursuit of peace inside my own skull, and sometimes from an elemental struggle toward survival as a functional and independent adult growing from a storm-damaged sapling.  Some tools were tried for a time and left behind; some were perfectly suited to specific needs that then passed.  Yet there have been those I’ve found universally applicable, tested over years, and circled around to again and again and again.  These have been pillars of resilience — taken refuge in, used diagnostically and therapeutically and creatively; each one distinct from the others yet intimately interrelated.  They build on each other and have been well maintained. They have consistently taken me along the path from victim through survivor and into leadership.  Sustainable leadership is fundamentally the province of a healthy creature, one that knows to provide consistent food for its own needs.  Many whom I work with on resilience skills naturally move deeper into leadership roles as their foundations are strengthened.

There are eight pillars to this pavilion, four pairs that support a sheltering roof.  They do not prevent hardship, immunize me from pain, or prevent loss or sorrow.  But I can attest that anyone within this pavilion will experience these in a radically different way, recover more cleanly and more quickly and with greater wisdom and serenity than one without them.  They are refined and enhanced through time.  The richness that can be explored in any one pillar is one of their strengths. I call them:  The Tarn & Wellsprings, Mindfulness & Mapping, Tribe & Tapestry, Vulnerability & the Extraordinary Normal.  Exploring, testing, living and refining these resulted in the foundation of this book.

A journey and an illumination.  The gift to myself of an extraordinary, normal life.

You need only to claim the events of your life to make yourself yours.  When you truly possess all you have been and done, which may take some time, you are fierce with reality.

Florida Scott Maxwell

During my 50+ years as an educator, climber, guide, and investigator of many accidents, I must carry within me some of the mosaic Lorca is writing about.  I must have built – and am probably still building – what she refers to as a personal toolbox over the years because of my own losses and my work as an educator and investigator.  As the investigative team leader of the OES accident of 1986 I was more fortunate than Lorca. I did not have the external pressures she did as a survivor of that event.  I was older, I was from far away, and I had my peers. Nevertheless, this event – along with several others of a similar nature – are with me often. I suspect that with the help of Lorca’s book I will be looking through a new window, gaining a new perspective, and increasing the tools in the box and my own resilience.


Jed Williamson, President Emeritus – Sterling College and Editor (retired) of Accidents in North American Mountaineering