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Diary of a Ski Patrolman: Week 14

Diary of a Ski Patrolman: Week 14
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I’ve been feeling philosophical lately. I don’t really know what that means because it means something different to everyone. But that’s okay. So bear with me as I try to figure out a few things this week.

I’ll start with life. I can tell you that the meaning isn’t found in a book. It’s not found in a blog, either. Sorry, I know that’s weak. But it’s true. The meaning of life is not in the handles of a toboggan, or the air beneath my dangling skis as I sit on the lift. It’s not something I can reach out my mitten covered hand and grasp. Yet, I know it’s there. When I look out at the endless expanse of cloud-crested mountains from the top of Okemo, I can feel it. It seeps deeper into me than the frozen air on the coldest, windiest days. It’s beneath cognition, and evades perception. But it’s there.

Life’s meaning is buried in the turns carved on a fresh blanket of fallen snow. It’s hidden between the impeccably placed trees of your favorite glades run. It’s there sparkling in the sunlight, piercing through the icy tipped branches of every tree, and there it is again flowing through the melting icicles as the warmth of the sun nudges winter away.

The meaning is there and you can feel it. You feel it more than your sore toes crammed into your ski boots, and more than the unease just before you leap off a cliff that’s a bit out of your comfort zone. You know there’s something pushing you along, driving you to do it. Something other than your friend with the camera yelling at you to “stop being a wimp.”

The meaning of life is vague. But even if you can’t pin it down, you can recognize that it is there. The next time you’re on top of a mountain, just look out for awhile, and you’ll see what I mean. Or discover for yourself, what you mean…

The meaning of life is out of the way. Whew. That’s a relief.

We have the meaning of happiness today. That’s a tough one, for sure. Maybe even more complicated. Rather than investigate meaning, let’s simply go after the core. The core of happiness is like the core of an apple. Especially if it’s an Empire apple — I love those. But where is happiness, besides in an Empire apple? It’s whereever you decide it is. For me, this winter, it’s been on the powdery slopes of Okemo.

Happiness has been on the chairlift, looking over my shoulder [sometimes while carrying a toboggan], and looking in silence at the beauty of the world. Well, the beauty of a tiny sliver of the world, and realizing how much more there is to see…

So happiness. Am I right to say it’s on the slopes? Partially. For me, it seems like it is there, in my turns and my challenges each day…But It’s not really out there. Its core is within every creature capable of feeling. Happiness is within us. As I ride the lift and see beauty, I am happy. This happiness lives within me, and can evolve. And then if I’m stuck inside on a rainy day, I can still have that happiness within me, if I’m determined to keep it alive.

We need to just take more time to look back over our shoulders. Whether you’re on a chairlift or falling asleep with your head on the kitchen table, you can find something worth a moment of awe. If you’re on your table, maybe it’s the month old yogurt turning blue, which is pretty crazy. Unless it’s blueberry — then it’s okay.

But happiness. Yeah, it’s there for all of us, in different places, but most of all it is within our hearts and our capacity to feel and admire our surroundings. We just need to allow it to thrive on the good days, and the not so good days. And I need to work on that. On the next rainy day I want to smile at the sky, and remember it will be sunny soon enough.

Okay, so I’m sort of over the whole philosophy thing, for now. Last night I read about the Singularity, which is the hypothesized point in time, about 30 years from now, where computers will become far more intelligent than humans. So I figure such computers can finish philosophy, instead of me. So I’m going to talk about doing what computers can’t do very well — skiing through the woods.

Skiing through trees [okay, not through but around], is a heck of a lot of fun. It’s kind of scary, too, depending on how far apart the trees are spaced, and what sort of incline the trail possesses. If it’s really steep, rocky, and the trees are so tightly packed that every turn you feel a stab of fear, you’re in the right place. At least, if you love tree skiing as much as me, and many of our other patrollers. You won’t find these trails easily. They’re sneaky, hidden, and dark. They’re dangerous. You don’t want to go on them…unless you do.

Tree skiing is exhilarating. Every tree is an obstacle that you can gracefully avoid, using your skill and anticipation. Or each tree can also smack your goggles, or sting your face, or even worse. The only way to get better at tree skiing is to do it, and to constantly push yourself to take more difficult trails. It’s okay to start with widely spaced trees, and slowly advance to the tighter stuff.

Updated Friday, March 11th, 2011

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