It’s fifteen degrees below zero on the mountain.
Stuffing sore feet into ski boots; threading limbs into multiple layers, I waddle like the Michelin man to grab my powder skis. It’s so cold today it’s like skiing on Styrofoam. Uff da!
One of my non-skiier friends thinks I’m some Nordic goddess, going to Valhalla every day, immune to cold and misery. “I just thought you spent your days frolicking,” she says.
Frolicking? Last week, the lifts were on a temporary “wind hold” (60 mph!) so I took my students to do one-ski drills on the bunny hill, all the while dreaming of a hot bath.
The bad luck started New Year’s Day as I headed to work, ready to frolic. I drove into my neighbor’s gas pipe, nearly covered in snow. It bent. I called the gas company, and as Taos would have it, my neighbor’s heating system needed to be brought up to code before NM Gas could relight it. Next thing I know, I’m holding a bill for $5000.
Driving in snow is not the only challenge. The other day, airlines were the problem. My private student is a no-show. Her flight from Austin could not land at the Taos airport, so they rerouted back to Texas. Her time slot is quickly replaced by a lesson with a lovely Pakistani Pediatrician who skis just fine until she suddenly swerves downhill on a beginner slope, upside down and screaming. I ski down fast to stop the slide. “I’m fine,” she says.
“Good,” I said, because you can’t quit. “You just bought $700 boots.”
First-world problems are problems, nonetheless.
My next student is a middle-aged professor from Houston, where the altitude is about 7,000 feet less. One minute he’s fine, and two turns later, he’s on the ground, not moving.
But ski patrol (the ones who wake up at 3:30am to bomb the mountain and later drag off our wounded students to the clinic) glides by. I’m happy to babysit my student’s kids while ski patrol takes over. The next few hours involve constant rendezvous between the mountain and the clinic to communicate about logistics, all the while trailing a couple of beginner kids behind me. Why this run of bad luck? I wonder, but then again, I think I know why…
Irony. When you resolve, on January 1, that you’re not to eat any more red twizzlers or watch another episode of The Crown ever again; when you think life is going to simplify, and you’ll be a normal, unflappable person (despite certifiable ADHD), you are asking for it.
This is, after all, January: the deepest, darkest, coldest part of winter; when we come face to face with our deepest, darkest demons. The herd is culled, and people we love actually die while we are weirdly still alive, busy worrying about the beveled edges of our skis. We are past the eggnog and Hallmark movies.
It’s just another example of Global World Irony. The universe is personally laughing at me because I thought I could turn myself into someone else, someone I’m not. And the world is, after all, dangerous and difficult and has a twisted sense of humor.
So today, I accept. I accept that it’s fifteen degrees below zero and the day is still beautiful.
Yesterday’s student, a Baltimore pianist, tells me she’s afraid.
“I’ve never skied powder this deep,” she says. “I don’t want to fall. Just tell me how to do it.” I tell her she already knows how to ski. Today she is being asked to feel something that’s just deeper and different. Do you learn to play beautiful music by simply analyzing?
On the chairlift, we watch the feathery soft flakes falling, erasing every stump and rock on the mountain. What if we could start to trust – feel our legs under us, seeking out turn after turn in the deep snow? You don’t need to be a whole new human as much as you need to trust in life’s wild flow and your own ability.
But it’s me who hits some obstacle and topples over. My students enjoy the spectacle immensely. None of it matters, really.
It’s just life.
It’s just snow.
It’s just falling.
Each mistake, each misstep, is a skill builder, like a toddler learning to walk.
While I know we must pay attention to nature’s stricter laws (like gravity), maybe there is still some free will after all – like the decision to laugh or cry.
Today, the joke’s on me…
I choose levity.