26 February 2013

My Own Face Inside the Trees

The winter in these parts has completely stagnated. No significant snow since early January. Any small storms have been followed immediately by stiff winds that have either blown away everything that fell or formed thick, impenetrable slabs. I'm trying to keep the faith but my faith is being tested.

Still, skiing with my favorite in-bounds ski partner has been, as always, fun. We've hit most of the local destinations: Soldier Mountain, Pomerelle, and Bogus Basin. We still have Magic Mountain on the checklist as well as Blizzard Mountain when and if it ever opens. I'd like to make it over to Pebble Creek but it's a bit of a haul. Of course Sun Valley is closest but at $99 for adults and $56 for the dude I can't say I have much interest in Sun Valley. I've always been a champion of the underdog.

He's been skiing like a superstar and it makes me infinitely happy.

Linking shorter radius turns sans snowplow, following a fall line, and stopping on a dime when necessary all tell me he's been watching his elders as well as paying attention to the feel of his own body. We're still working on the occasionally flailing arms and squaring the shoulders but I'm patient. So is he.

A few of his favorite chair ride sing-alongs:

He's been more independent this year, choosing his own lines, picking the runs and leading the way, and riding the chair by himself. He's also not listened when I told him to stay on-piste because off-piste the snow was old, crusty, and difficult to ski. This sort of independence initiated his first encounter with a tree. He might listen to me next time.

As a dad I've learned only to advise, not dictate. Likewise, there is only so much advice one person is willing to put up with, so at certain times the best thing a parent can do is play the part of a lifeguard and be the first to the rescue when a shark attacks.

It all unfolds quickly and it's impossible to know how it will end. As a parent you realize very early in the process that the creature you brought into this world, though unable to make his own pasta dinner, was born to be free. It's a sort of helpless responsibility, a liberating burden, maybe the same kind of liberating burden expressed in Milan Kundera's phrase, the unbearable lightness of being.

Or maybe it's the kind of helpless that is tied to intimacy, a kind of mystery born from kinship. Sort of what Norman Maclean meant when he wrote:

For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don't know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them - we can love completely without complete understanding.

The feeling that at any moment they might take up and fly away is beautiful if not a little unnerving. It's probably what keeps many from becoming parents themselves. Now that I am and will forever be a parent the allure of the mystery is impossible to resist. Uncertainty is necessary and that necessity is heartbreaking. Uncertainty tests the faith in the same way a stagnate winter makes you wonder if you should trade in skis for a surfboard. But as certain as the Earth drifts around the Sun winter will return someday and it will be beautiful and it will be welcome. I like to think that second and third requests to ski powder in the trees indicate that we're drifting in the right direction.


19 February 2013

The Tracker

My ski partners have never been very good at setting the skin track. I tend to climb quicker and not stop for food or drink.


Though I like to stop and smell the roses as much as the next person I also like to reach a destination. I like the solitude at the top of something or other. I like to look back down from where I've (we've) come. I like to give my thanks in peace. I like to anticipate what will happen next.

Then I wait. I wait for my ski partner to catch up, take a rest, have a look around, and also anticipate what will happen next, though I'm not sure she ever does. And because my ski partner never seems to know when our day will start or stop, I feel entitled to lead the way back down.

My ski partners have never been very good at setting the skin track. That's alright. That just means I get the pleasure of watching something more graceful and perfect than me take her own sweet time.


05 February 2013

Literary Skiers 19

The morning I woke up, Metaphor was laying next to Dellwood's fire bed, frozen.

I saddled up Abraham Lincoln and Killdeer and started riding. No tracks to follow, I rode north and west. Rode with the firewater brandy, rode into the Craters of the Moon. Lava rock, snow and ice, slabs of Indian warriors, wind.

Rode in circles. Kept going. Going where I didn't know. Ten more feet. One step at a time.

I pulled my hat down and covered my face with the scarf I'd made two holes in, and wore the blind man's glasses. Yellow snow--a world of yellow snow.

Mountain peaks growing into other mountain peaks. The crooked trail not a trail at all except that we were following it, sometimes the path no wider than Killdeer and Abraham Lincoln, my feet sticking out over the forever blizzard going down.

Nights by the fire, red-under-black embers at my head, moon at my eyes. I did not close my eyes. Did not open them.

No single intention.

No Dellwood's shiny dime.

My errant knight.

My little pip.

My brave hero.

--Tom Spanbauer, from The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon, 1991