Fall

It’s the end of August and autumn overtakes full branches of trees. Driving to the dump, it’s hard not to marvel at the bright orange standing stark against the green. The colors are beautiful. I don’t remember ever seeing them so sudden and crisp.

This is southern Vermont. Three hours north, in the Kingdom, the trees started turning in July. It was cold when I was there last – much too cold to go swimming (although I waded in anyway and spent the rest of the day chilled to the marrow).

The summer tumbled by, not in a flurry of activity, but bore by the steady pace of Must Do.

I think I’ve been domesticated. I’m not sure how I feel about this.

Although I do love my new cutting board and ukulele.

Out with the old, in with the new.

I don’t know about your ski resort, but it’s definitely been a busy summer at mine. Here I was worried that I wouldn’t have anything to do. I couldn’t be more wrong. It’s a different kind of busy than it is in the ski season, but it definitely is busy.

Like today.

Today, Stratton welcomed the first shipment of new gondola cabins. If you are familiar with the original cabins, you’ll know that this upgrade is long overdo.

Why, hello there, you sexy thing.

Why hello, Gorgeous.

I am roundly and soundly exhausted.

Remember that time it went according to plan? (Me neither)

Welcome to that special time of year when the weather is perfect between 9am and 5pm and torrential downpours complete with lightning from 5pm to 9am.

It’s a good time. Really.

I would like to share a quote I found from Skiing Magazine. They’re running a series on snow sport industry dream jobs, and of course I clicked on their interview of freelance writer Chris Solomon. Anyone who wears that much orange with a bottle of what appears to be whiskey is A-Okay By Me.

This is the bit I’m so keen on sharing:

What do you enjoy the most about ski writing?

I’ve learned over the years that it’s more about the experience, and not necessarily the perfect powder days. It’s not all about getting that iconic face shot, or that perfect gourmet meal at a four-star restaurant. People don’t always want to read about great days—those days aren’t what make us. The challenging, weird, get-your-ass-handed-to-you trips are the ones that are fun to read and write about. Standard resort stories are boring; they lack a narrative. Skiing is all about finding cool, new places and meeting cool, new people. After a while it’s not really about the snow, or the skiing itself—at least not for me.

Un-italicized emphasis is, of course, mine.

I love the weird days. Like when I went camping for the first time: when the chaperoning English teacher drove over my suitcase of snacks (destroying my bag, a jar of Nutella, and a box of granola bars), I then burned my hand moving a burning log, got some sort of rash from swampy cattail water, and didn’t sleep more than 3 hours a night because I had never slept in a tent before and it’s scary, okay?

Or that time on my college orientation trip when I decided that it was a good idea to make a pita bread sandwich with tuna, pepperoni, summer sausage, goldfish and honey. In defense of my creation, it was certainly not the worst thing I’ve ever eaten.

I don’t really have much of a point. Just wanted to share this interview, because it’s pretty neat, and the series, which is also pretty neat. I’ve heard rumors that SKIING is trying to bring itself back to life and out from under the soulless awfulness that is SKI Magazine. I hope that happens.

Care to share a weird story from one of your adventures? Don’t be shy. I just publicly admitted to eating honey and tuna fish of my own free will. Nothing is as embarrassing as that.

This photo was taken in 2006 around the time of the Tuna Incident. I'm in the middle.

This photo was taken in 2006 around the time of the Tuna Incident. I’m in the middle.

Wanderesolutions

This is Megan, a performer from Quixotic. She and her team were absolutely amazing. Awe-inspiring & delighting. I'm also really, really proud of this photo. http://quixoticfusion.com/

This is Megan, a performer from Quixotic. She and her team were absolutely amazing. Awe-inspiring & delighting.
I’m also really, really proud of this photo. http://quixoticfusion.com/

I’m coming down from the high of Wanderlust-Stratton. While I’ve worked every day since the 16th, supporting the festival was hardly labor. As my first festival experience, I spent the entire four-day period wrapped in wonder, exploring. I’m sad to say I didn’t suck the marrow from the festival, but I’m also not surprised. I didn’t know how much I would be needed in the office, so didn’t sign up for many classes or lectures. I popped in on a few, but found that my body was so out of yoga shape that I was nearly crippled by day four, conveniently when I decided I wanted to do a Chi Running workshop.

Suffice to say I did not make it to the workshop.

But, even without the Chi Running coaching, I still feel kicked out of a weird little funk. See, I was not built for sitting still or windowless rooms. To remind myself of this, I want to write down my Wanderesolutions.

  • Move every day.
  • Explore, with wonder.
  • Write where someone else can see.
  • Appreciate the wealth in simplicity.
I totally posed this photo.

I totally posed this photo.

The first two points need no explanation. They come from Wanderlust directly. To move one’s body and explore everything, inside and out.

IMG_3785

Om shanti shanti shanti.

The second two merit, I think, some introduction. To write where someone else can see is to write bravely. Which means, mostly, writing here. But also, I’d like to write for publication. I’ve said this for years. Now that I’ve claimed my quiet places in both the woods and our house, it’s time to make time for that. To do it, perhaps with shyness, but to do it anyway.

As to simplicity. In middle school, I bought a copy of “Walden.” I started reading it, as evidenced by a few underlined passages. Past the pencil lines, I see a self-conscious un-understanding; knowing these things were personally significant while being uncomfortably aware that the words were not really significant yet. Like an premonition. It makes way more sense now.

In short, between now and next year, I have an awful lot of Wanderlusting to do. Let’s go.

Numbering Nature

Last night I held a firefly in my hands. I held it and marveled at how something so light could possibly shine so brightly, so fiercely, and for so short a time. Ever helpful, I scooped it off of the outside door and carried it to the side of the house within sight of the rest of his brethren. Fireflies, lighting up the yard under a canopy of stars. This is why I like living in the country.

Last week I caught frogs and crayfish with my nephews. This week, I caught fireflies and bottle flies and several mice of varying sizes. I’ll be honest. The bottle flies and mice did not survive the encounters.

I’ve seen deer illuminated by headlights and turkeys stirred into motion only by the honk of a horn. I almost stepped on a garter snake, have seen painted turtles on the side of the road. I said hello to the neighborhood fox on one of my runs, but I haven’t seen the lynx since November. When I sat with myself in the woods, I closed my eyes and wondered what I’d do if I found myself eye-to-nose with a black bear.

No moose or ticks yet, either, but plenty of spiders, crickets, and flies of various biting capabilities.

A luna moth with a bent wing. Chickadees and crows and small birds I don’t know the names for. Hawks with their heads turned regally away – I’m not worthy of their notice.

Minnows around my toes. Gypsy moth caterpillars. Ants. So many ants.

These are all of the reasons I live in the country.

IMG_3620

While we’re still talking about swimming…

I was shuffling through some papers tonight and rediscovered the essay Bouyancy by Willard Spiegelman. Honestly, I don’t recall where I found it and I barely remember reading it.

But, it does cover some of the sensations I talked about in my previous post and, by the transitive property of ideas, makes me seem less weird.

An excerpt:

The swimmer becomes part of the element that supports him, part of an ever-changing geometry through which he slices and which then corrects itself as he moves past. The human body is 70 percent water, so swimming returns us to ourselves. The action combines fact (“grasp”) and process (“grasping”); it requires submission that then becomes liberation. You move beyond yourself and leave no trace. Swimming frees you from the world.

There is no adventure in lap swimming. (But there is.)

250 warm-up

4×100 freestyle with lateral breathing, alternating every 25 yrs :15 rest in between

2×250 freestyle with breathing pattern, 25 – 6, 50 – 5, 75 – 4, 100 – 3.

100 freestyle normal bilateral

100 kick

4×50 IM order :15 rest

200 warm-down

For a grand total of 1750 yards. One mile.

In 2005, one mile was no big deal. Now, nine years later, it’s a big deal.

Have you ever sat and watched someone swim even just 500 yards? It’s dull. There seems to be no adventure to it. No grand strokes of difference, just tenacious kicking. Swimming laps is sterile and monotonous, for the watcher and for the swimmer. The lanes do not change. The floor, if we’re very lucky, gradually approaches and receives, adding some visual interest and an indication of the passage of distance; something to show, at least, for the enormous effort of moving through water. Sound becomes white noise, drowned by water and exasperated by the funny way all pool buildings refract sound. Even sensation drops away. You can feel nothing but the current of your own momentum against your skin.

There is no adventure to be seen in lap swimming. But there is adventure.

Held afloat, made buoyant by a blend of momentum and body fat, the mind slips away. Your brain no longer has to think about holding your stomach in or wonder what that smell is. Instead, muscle memory takes over and your thinking mind relaxes. While your body is counting strokes between breath, the thinking mind suspends.

Is this the swimmer’s version of a runner’s high? If so, then I haven’t run far enough or fast enough to reach this state – balanced perfectly between the Id and Superego.

There’s some correlation between which thoughts come up the stroke. Backstroke makes me plan for future things, accomplishments that haven’t yet been. Breaststroke (my worst stroke by far) is where I face weakness. Freestyle is where anxieties are presented and summarily dismissed. Butterfly (my favorite stroke by far) is pure adrenaline; it’s where I stand up for myself. Butterfly is an efficient, powerful stroke; you cannot swim butterfly when you are at war with yourself. If you do not believe that you are efficient and powerful, then the stroke will punish you.

At least, I always feel efficient and powerful after I swim butterfly. But, people who love to swim butterfly are at least a little bit crazy. I honestly don’t know if I was any good at butterfly back in 2005. I think I was okay. Not amazing, but okay. Even at my most competitive, my times didn’t really matter. I just loved swimming butterfly. I was definitely crazy.

This past one-mile swim, during my 50 backstroke I thought, “I bet I’m the right kind of crazy for triathlons.”

There is adventure in swimming laps. You just may not see quite yet.

Take pleasure in the rain

You know those rainy days when you find yourself questioning?

Your work. Your play. Your relationship with other human beings. Your relationship with yourself. Come on. You know what I’m talking about. The days when one question tumbles into ten, a hundred, more than you care to count.

On that day, I highly recommend going out to enjoy the rain. Stand in the parking lot with your head tilted back, face to the sky. Close your eyes and feel the spaces between the rain. Feel the impact of the air, feel the comforting coolness of the water as it slides into your eyes and runs from jaw to clavicle.rain

Forget for a moment to pull your rain coat over your head. Forget that you’re supposed to be inside cooking dinner or returning phone calls. Forget the spreadsheets, the grocery list, the laundry piled in a disheveled heap on the bed. Forget.

And take a minute’s pleasure in the rain.

Rinse. Repeat until you feel clean.

 

Musings from the flatlands

On my first visit back to Illinois since the tornado turned my parents’ neighborhood into toothpicks, I thought I was going to have Opinions. I would share those Opinions here, going on a tirade about, presumably, the foolish folly of man against nature. The biggest surprise of being back here is that I don’t have an Opinion, let alone Opinions.

Riding around the neighborhood, some houses are aesthetically repaired to their original big-box-store perfection. Others, just two doors down, have holes in their roofs and entire walls hanging precariously off. The juxtaposition is bizarre.

From the saddle of my beautiful borrowed bicycle (a loaner from the local bike shop – the Specialized Ruby), there’s nothing to say that Robert Frost hasn’t already said: “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”

Yesterday I watched a rabbit take shelter from the rain under the neighbor’s red Honda.

Whether we rebuild or not, life goes on.

-

On an entirely separate note Dad bought me my first pair of cycling shoes as a “thank you” for finally buying my own car and therefore getting off his car insurance. The shoes (Specialized) match my black and purple Louis Garneau kit. I’m That Cyclist now, and I have no intention to apologize for it.

Now I need a bike rack so that I can transport the bike somewhere that isn’t uphill in every direction.

How to Teach Your Lover (and have them not hate you)

See! He's even smiling a little... .... ...!

See! He’s even smiling a little… …. …!

It’s common wisdom that two people engaged in a romantic liaison should never under any circumstances teach one another to do anything. From running to poker, nothing good can come of this.

Or can it?

R and I have survived the winter of sharing our sports with one another. Here’s how we did it without one stabbing the other with a sharpened ski pole.

1. Have an actual interest in learning the sport.

I’m serious here. Reasons you should learn a sport from your lover: you want to play that sport and want to play it with them at some point in time. Reasons you should not learn a sport from your lover: you want to keep an eye on them, you don’t like them having their me-time, they’re forcing you. These are bad bad bad bad reasons and will only make the experience miserable.

I dated someone who forced me to run with him. It was the worst. I didn’t start running again until nearly 3 years after we broke up. Why? Because it was torture. Don’t torture; it’s mean.

2. Establish a teacher-student relationship that is different from your partner-partner relationship.

During teaching time, let the teacher teach and let the student be a student. Don’t just acknowledge that the teacher knows what they are doing, take it for granted. Believe it from your frostbitten nose to your tennis-shoed toes.

For us, this was pretty easy. We’re both athletes used to being coached, for one. But, perhaps more importantly, we do a pretty good job of communicating our lesson needs to one another. Teaching tennis is part of R’s job. It’s what he does, and he does it quite well. When it came time to teach him to ski, I took cues from our tennis lessons on how to talk, how to explain things, and how to listen.

This isn’t to say it’s always easy. R, for example, does this thing called “talking” which drives me nuts. I can’t listen, wind up, aim, and hit a ball of yellow fuzz all at the same time.

3. Know your limits as a teacher.

I can’t speak for R here, but I can speak for myself. I have never taught skiing to anyone. I am navigating this teaching thing by guesswork, relying on examples and tricks I either overheard or vaguely remember from the two winters I raced. I know I can’t be his only instructor, which leads me to —

4. Allow and encourage them to learn from someone else.

You’re not the only person in the universe, and you may not be the best teacher for your lover. I’m not the best person to teach a complete newbie how to ski, so I helped R get set with rental gear and gave him a good luck kiss before he went off to take lessons from a properly trained professional.

In tennis, a shoulder injury prevents me from doing a normal overhand serve. The person who taught me my serve wasn’t R, but one of our friends who happened to know enough about tennis to suggest it. R don’t take it personally that someone else’s boyfriend fixed my serve.

Coach on the court. Coach’s girlfriend, not paying attention. Per usual.

I use the word fixed very loosely here. My serve is terrible. But at least it doesn’t feel like my arm is tearing through the socket every time I try.

5. Kiss them when they’re happy, kiss them when they’re pissed.

Unless they don’t like kissing. In which case why are you dating this person?

Here, basically, no matter what, be positive. If they’re driving you nuts, be positive. If they’re getting ticked at you, be positive. Tell them that they’re doing great. If they really aren’t doing great, give them a kiss and say, “That’s enough for today.” Maybe they had a bad day. Don’t make it worse by forcing them freeze on the chairlift or hurt themselves by flailing frustratedly at a ball of fuzz.

That’s all the advice I have. Do you have experience teaching your loved one, or being taught by them? Funny stories, epic fails, or brilliant victories? Tell me about them. :)