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Thursday, April 01, 2004

The Ski Dream

It's been too many years and beers ago to remember exactly when this happened. I remember where I was, why, and whith whom, but beyond that it's all a giant white blur.

I was on top of a mountain in a blinding snowstorm. The flakes were as big as they get and the wind whipped in all directions at once. It was the type of storm that should've forced the ski resort to close the lifts, but at that moment the lifts were still running. It would only be a few more minutes until the lift motors stopped and the hordes of skiers retired to lodges to wait out the storm.

But for the moment, I was on top of the mountain with a few friends, an inadequate grasp on the ability to ski properly, and a pair of rented skis that were obviously the cast-offs of some long-ago Olympic wannabe.

I didn't think this at the time. In fact, I didn't think this until this morning in the shower. If I had been thinking at that moment, I would've thought about two Roberts.

See, Robert Johnson stood at a crossroads. Robert Frost did, too, and took the road less traveled. Me, I had three potential paths back to the relative safety and warmth of the ski lodge.

Any beginning skier learns the color codes:

Green=Boring, yet safe, wide run to the bottom
Blue=Slightly less boring, yet still fairly safe run to the bottom
Blue/Black=Reserved for those who ski fairly well, challenging yet probably won't kill you or break anything if you choose to go in that direction.
Black or Double Black Diamond=Reserved for very good skiers. Will likely seriously injure intermediate skiers who approach the run with anything less than clear head and fresh muscles.

On my right was a Double Black. In front of me the Blue/Black. On my left the Green.

This would be a better story if I told you I waded through the blinding white-out, jumped over the top of the hill, and skied the double black like a pro.

I didn't. I watched Uncle Brian (who is not really my Uncle, nor much more than a year older than me) take the hardest route, like he always did. The man could conquer just about any mountain. He was the type of guy would laugh, joke, and drink with you all the way up on the lift. You'd wish you could follow him down the back side of the mountain, just for the laughs and contstant chatter. We always had to wait for those laughs until we got back to the lodge.

A few more brave friends hit the Blue/Black like they didn't care whether they ended up in traction. And I stood at the top of the mountain, trying to make my decision.

They are those grand old days that I remember well when I have the ski dreams. They are those vivid dreams that make you want nothing more than to be sitting around a fire, sipping on a beer, recounting the tales of the day of skiing gone by. I love the ski dream, because it least it helps me remember those days like the one in the middle of the white out.

And here I sit, on April Fool's Day, a day that holds no small amount of significance in my life, and I'm again standing on top of a metaphorical White Out Mountain.

So much is flying around me that I can't see. The blinding white is intimidating as anything. This is more than a state of flux. It's absolute chaos. It's exactly opposite of everything that I want right now. Right now, as I await the birth of my kid (who, incidentally, flipped me off during the ultrasound yesterday), I want everything to be clear, calm, collected, c-words ad infinitum (with the exception of the c-word that gets my wife all riled up).

But, that's not how things are. The chaos is out of my control. What's more, I'm again standing at the top of a mountain with three paths in front of me. Exactly which one I take is not entirely up to me, but I play a large role in that decision.

Back during the white out, I knew that if I followed Uncle Brian and made it down without injury, I would be the happiest and perhaps most applauded member of our crew. If I took slighty safer but still denagerous route that the rest of my buddies took, it would be a story of victory over adversity that we could all share for some time. If I took the safe route down, I would have no story. I would have no camraderie. And my friends would probably make fun of me.

So it was:

Probable disaster, with the potential for great victory.
Potential disaster, with potential for continued friendship and physical reward.
Absolute safety, with no reward and likely continued ridicule.

I chose the Blue/Black. I followed my friends through the blinding snow, falling a couple of times, but making it down no worse for the wear. It was exhilarating and one of the most breath-taking moments of my fairly lazy life.

Metaphors, I know, can be quite tedious, especially when taken this far. However, that's where I am right now.

I'm blind, I'm cold, the ski lift to the top of the mountain will be shut down very shortly, and I'm stuck with a decision that doesn't entirely depend on me.

Please don't misunderstand. I'm not sad, mad, glad, or any other Suessian concept. I'm simply on edge, metaphorically and literally.

It may take a few weeks before this resolves itself.

In the meantime, what would you do?


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