Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Turn Taken

It feels strange this morning to not be in ski gear headed to the mountain. Yesterday, a second sunny day after five had snowed five feet of luscious powder, conditions were glorious and today will likely be almost as good.

Every turn was silent with a puff of spray, a whoosh of delight and wonder that anything could feel so sweet. My pole jabbing in to help me come round continually sank up to the handle. Falls began in slow motion and melted into laughter, lying half-buried and in no hurry to begin the arduous task of digging back out to get upright.

Chairlift conversations were simple acknowledgments that rarely are days this fine, then wander into blissful silences, absorbing the sunshine and staring uphill in contemplation of the past or future turns. Passing one of my new instructor friends, there could simply be a nod, an “Unh-hunh, this is what we’re here for!” kind of grin.

In the middle of one of the toughest trails, near the end of the day, I paused, surrounded higher and lower by no one but the soft moguls who had also become my friends. My eyes rising to the forest stark green and silent, higher to the mountain peak frozen in thick white, higher still to the brilliant blue so deep and rich beyond belief, I pondered the wealth I have received this winter.

At an age when many groan, wince and complain, when parts fail and can be replaced, and hearts give out completely or cancer invades insidiously, my own body has rediscovered a rhthym it had known thirty years ago, refining it into a more graceful dance. Instead of limiting myself by thinking the sport is too expensive, I found a way to earn my pass to feed my passion, opening the door to a season of adventure.

What began as a tribulation, almost a sentence, rolling my eyes back with wonder that I as a rookie could be stuck with the youngest, weepiest, frightened and obstinate four year olds has turned into a blessing, a bond I cherish. These Skatter Monkies (as we call ourselves) are as tough, resilient and determined as they are playful and adorable. Their hugs and smiles are such sweet reward for this Skatter Brain (as they call me—more aptly than they could ever know!).

As so many already have the fortune to know and the wisdom to appreciate, by far the greatest thrill has been to witness the growth of my son. Just last year, he stood lower than my shoulder, contemplating his first field of moguls of any size, and now I follow his trail, face splattered by his powder, struggling to keep up. We teach together, equals in charge of our little monkies.

His constant commentaries and banter breaks out my laughter. Simple statements sometimes silence me by the power of their profound perspective. His heart open, his joy apparent, he flies past me on his way to better turns than I will ever know, our poles clicking together in the skiers’ toast.

For a long moment, I stood on that mogul yesterday, in the middle of that trail, countless more bumps to handle lying below me. In life, my trail is not so clearly laid out. No matter how much I love this skiing, it is not paying many bills. Health problems, tuition and braces payments loom largely. I have to recognize that my retirement plan will hopefully allow me to ski, not the other way around, and no matter how awesome the conditions, I will have to come in for a landing and find more stable employment.

I looked down the chairlift line and suddenly recognized that instead of counting how many people might take notice (I admit it), I actually was looking for a string of empty chairs to witness my next burst. With one more glance upwards at that brilliant blue against the alpine glow of the dawning sunset, in perfect peace and unspoken clarity of purpose, I finally pushed off.

Not for my skatter Monkies or other friends on the mountain, or strangers on the chair, not for my best buddy laid up in the hospital with a broken knee getting replaced, not for my son who opted out this day in exhaustion after so many great days, not for some future lover, or even for my mother who can no longer remember how she loved to watch me ski, these turns were purely for myself alone.

Please share with your friends


laughingirl said...

What a beautifully written piece. You captured a moment, a day, and a season here. Thanks for sharing it, Kip.

Anonymous said...


Zannah said...

And in the middle of all of the skiing, you called me and we talked! :)

Laurie said...

Isn't it in those times we feel most fully alive Kip? We know that all there is is us, God and the experience. Yours was the best example of living in the moment I have heard in a long time. It seems that when we can do that, live in the moment, we enjoy it for years to come. If we had snow like that here in Texas, maybe I would like the winter more. Very little snow here and no skiing at all! Bummer!

Down here in the south, the pear trees are beginning to bloom. Spring is knocking on our door calling us to play. The canoe is aching to be taken out and be paddled around. It's a chilly day today but the blooms on the pear trees are beautiful and remind me warm days are just around the corner!

Anonymous said...

You sound lost and lonely. Also, was that a picture of "the octagon" of NPHS lore?

Kip de Moll said...

Laughingirl: you're so kind

Anonymous 1: so glad you liked it

Zan: of course we talked--best part of my day!

Laurie:signs of spring are just beginning here, the snow is changing to mush. Feeling that is why I stopped to appreciate all this winter has brought me.

anonymous 2: no fair, you obviously visited the Octagon. Reveal thyself. And by the way, I have been lost and am hopefully finding myself. Loneliness is just a transient state of mind. I don't feel that very often.

Daphne said...

Hi Kip,

I've never been skiing, and this post makes me realise that I'd like to very soon! The photos and the writing were both beautiful.

Erin said...

Kip...I got NO lost and lonely from this piece. I was actually so pleased to hear you sound so completely content with yourself (as you should be) and was so happy you had such a great day! I loved it.
What's the "octagon"?