Joe Jencks

On Belay

from I Hear Your Voice

My sister Julie went to school to study outdoor education, and spent several years leading wilderness trips for "at risk" youth.  While she was studying adventure techniques in college, she and my sister Jean took several of us younger siblings climbing near Madison, WI.  Belay (bell-lay) refers to the safety rope and/or the person holding it.  To the many people who hold a safety line for me, especially my big sister Julie, THANKS!

I was only eight years old and feeling pretty small
Standing at the bottom of a cold red granite wall
You took me up to Devil's Lake, to teach me how to climb
You told me I could do it if I only gave it time

There was tension on the rope and concentration on my face
You tightened up my harness as I put my hands in place
Though I was scared and frightened, so I turned to see you smile
I knew the shelter of your confidence would hold me for a while

I'm on belay; there is safety in your call
I know that I can take a risk and you will stop my fall
And so I'll try, to give it all I have today,
'Cause if I slip I know that I'm still on belay

You know I did not make it up that cliff but I gave it all I had
I was crying as you brought me down, and feeling pretty bad
But you said, "My little brother do you know I'm proud of you?
For the courage that you should today will always see you through!"

I'm on belay; there is safety in your call
I know that I can take a risk and you will stop my fall
And so I'll try, to give it all I have today,
'Cause if I slip I know that I'm still on belay

There were several times throughout my youth when I began to go astray
You took me back out on the rocks to help me find my way
You said "Look at where you're going, find an anchor that is true
With inner strength and solid judgment, there is nothing you can't do"

I'm on belay; there is safety in your call
I know that I can take a risk and you will stop my fall
And so I'll try, to give it all I have today,
'Cause if I slip I know that I'm still on belay

When I was nearly done with school and ready to cut loose
You gave me a brand new backpack, and a book by Dr. Seuss
And you said, "Oh the place you will go! I hardly can believe
But you have all the tools you need whenever you decide to leave"

I give honor to the child that I was not so long ago
And when I climb I still get scared and so I take it slow
And remember if I lose my step that I can call your name
For the telephone's a safety line that holds me just the same

I'm on belay; there is safety in your call
I know that I can take a risk and you will stop my fall
And so I'll try, to give it all I have today,
'Cause if I slip I know that I'm still on belay

If I slip I know that I'm still on belay

© 2001, 2002 Joe Jencks

updated: 8 years ago