Skiing would be total bullshit if it weren’t so awesome.
Photo by Danni, photochop by me.
I’ve said it before; winter in proper mountains is at once the root of human civilization and the ultimate instantiation of the Other. The snowbound fastness above treeline makes us fear for our lives, which is why the rare kind days are so breathtaking. This weekend we had warmth, sun, mild wind, and for human purposes endless mountains in all directions. 8.5 hours into an 11 hour day, perched on the highest peak of our long and winding ridge traverse, with a river valley 4ooo feet below laying the country open in both directions, I was glad I forgot the camera. I ran my eyes back and forth, in and out, zooming and retracting and going over the panorama again and again and again, each time seeing different details. Part of me always knows just how much bigger than me and my powers of understanding the world is, but it is only a few times a year, at best, that I’m so rudely cudgeled by that fact.
It is not a coincidence that any of us were there that afternoon. Recreating isn’t the only thing worth living for, without my “real” job and the pleasurable mundanities which come with Monday through Friday, Nine to Five (ish), I wouldn’t see the tail end of the impossible nearly as well as I can. But being so far from the deep sublime that you only know it as a distant cousin goes too far in the other direction, and makes intimacy impossible. It is the Schrodinger’s cat of montane intersubjectivity; you can only know anything about the mountains by being there and by being away, down in the safety of civilization.
Last month, when our old laptop died and the new one was taking the slow ebay truck across the continent, I missed this. It would be very easy to not do this, leave a day like the one above un-pictured, unsaid, and unwritten. Do no violence to the ineffable, and in a few days sore muscles are forgotten, boots smell less rank, and skis are rewaxed for the next plan. An approach, for me, as noble as it is cheap. Grasping for a thesis in a day like this one is not like, and as impossible as, defining the meaning of life. It is the meaning of life. The routine of answering here has compelled me to at least try as often as I am able, even if I did forget my camera in the fog of packing at 0430. I don’t want to live without it, and I hope I challenge you to do something similar.