Friday, February 25, 2011

The Wind Doth Blow, But Will We Have Snow?

The weather forecasters are occasionally right. In the bay area this morning the raging wind confirmed we were experiencing the storm of the decade, or maybe even century. Right now, however, it looks like a summer day. Still they are saying we may have snow by midnight. Since I keep my old Monterey Pines and fruit trees well maintained, my main concern is loosing power.

The painting shown is one I did several years ago when I was trying to learn dry brush. Lacking the model of a real snowy landscape, I copied a photo from an old magazine, adding touches from my own childhood memory album, for my house on the bluff faced the year round snowy Cascades, Mt. Baker, and Mt Rainier.

Age surely changes perspective, doesn’t it? As a kid growing up in Seattle one or two snowfalls a winter was the norm. Like all kids, I delighted in the opportunities presented. Sledding down Davis street hill was the most spine tingling adventure one could imagine, and that was only two blocks from where I lived.

By age 12 I had joined Cunningham’s Ski School. I wonder if it still exists? Besides owning a sporting goods store owner Cunningham’s passion was to offer ski trips for teens to Snoqualmie or Stevens Pass. It was a treasure for me. Despite a right leg amputated at the knee, Mr. Cunningham escorted every trip, making sure all of us had a safe and wonderful time. He was usually at the base of the rope tow, offering gentle coaching in boarding without falling, sometimes even holding us on until we got the knack of it. I was always a bit slow in muscle coordination skills. That is an understatement. Quite plainly I was a motor moron. Never the less by thirteen he had taught me an adequate snow plow, which is how I climbed most slopes. My bag lunch was always a baloney sandwich on white Langendorf, with a Baby Ruth candy bar, and enough money in my pocket to buy a cup of hot cocoa. By 14 I had advanced to a T bar lift, and burst with pride that I could hang on. Of course I had never even seen a chair lift. Our ski clothes and equipment were pretty primitive in today’s world.

Still, every winter Saturday that I could afford it I would head up to the mountains. In the beginning my equipment was rented and modest. By 16 I had my own skis, boots, and powder blue ski suit. They were not the top of the line but I thought I cut a pretty cute picture. The same equipment got me through high school and college, where my down slopes changed to Mt. Baker. The temps in winter were sometimes below zero.

So it was that when I moved to California at age 26 my high school ski equipment came too. I remember my 6’6” heavy wooden skis just fit balanced from front to back seat in Lee’s ’56 red Ford.

It was a spring weekend three or four years later before I found the opportunity to experience skiing in my new home state. What a shock! The sun was beating down. Skiers were sporting tee shirts and slathering on sun bloc. Some were even clad in shorts and halters and designer sun glasses. I timidly approached the chair lift for there were no familiar rope tows or T bars. Sadly there was no Mr. Cunningham to coach first timers. Still I somehow managed, but on the top when I exited the lift I felt my balance precarious, though I did not fall. People stared. I felt my confidence wavering.

After two or three rides with this same problem I asked the chair operator at the bottom of the lift what I was doing wrong. He offered the advice that just before I got to the top I should call to the kid attending at the top tower and ask him to watch me disembark so he could tell me what I was doing wrong. Good idea, I said, and so I did.

“Hey,” I shouted to the teenager in the tower on the top, “Will you watch me get off and tell what I’m doing wrong?” There was a long hesitation. I thought he had not heard me, so I yelled again, even louder.

This time he responded with a full throated derisive snarl, “Lady, you’re too OLD.”

My face turned the color of the sun burned teeny boppers. Did my old age (30) and old clothes make me look that much a misfit? When I reached the bottom of the hill I took off my skis, forever, as it turned out. My embarrassment and wounded pride got the best of me.

Much later I learned that I was exiting the chair a little too soon, so that I was still on the up-slope instead of on the level or facing slightly downhill as I skied off. This is what was affecting my balance and skills.

Every experience offers a lesson, doesn’t it. I hope that most of the time I remember that words can encourage or words can wound. It was a lesson painfully learned. I often wish I were more aware.

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