Nobody likes to hear “I told you so.” Although, some revel in saying it—not including great mothers. Mine had all reason to jab those words, but she never has. My mother taught me how to ski without ever equipping herself or facing a black-diamond, or a beginner slope for that matter. Great teachers, occasionally, can be the best mentors without having the experience of what they teach/preach. Granted…it’s rare.
If we are lucky in life, we will owe so much. The pain from the joy makes it almost impossible to ascertain the way and muster the will to repay such debts. I’m trying…but the years mount and snowflakes melt in the warm sun.
If you could do anything in life, what would you be doing? This is the question people ask themselves or others all the time. It is an exceptional question. But how many of us can truly answer? And if you can, how many years did it take to be able to without hesitation, remorse, or sarcasm?
One of the best of feelings, pure joy is an amazing emotion. Joy lives in the neighborhood with hope, compassion, mercy, love, peace, and the freedom of blissful contemplation. Joy is an exceptional feeling that can neither be bought nor sold. No two snowflakes are ever alike, and neither are any two moments standing atop a snow-covered mountain with sharpened skis, warm clothes, and the wonderfully cold sting from the possibility of something magical awaiting you at the very moment adrenaline pushes your legs forward and down.
I resisted skiing for several years. I was young, intolerable, and arrogantly naïve. Fourteen-year-olds know nothing about everything, and I was no exception. “Just try it,” my mother had said year after year, delicately as a January snowflake falling to its undetermined place. “You might enjoy it,” she said. Football, baseball, basketball…these were noble sports—not skiing. Or maybe it was something beyond that. Possibly, I have a learning disability, some great affliction that permits me to withstand the love unquestionably given to me—resistance out of spite.
But why? Why does a snowflake fall and melt?
Football, hockey, basketball, even baseball are not sublime games designed for small, somewhat-inferior people, not for the passionate artist looking beyond the misconceptions of the educational benefits stemming from the word “team.” Most teams are not, because individuals keep them from being so. One snowflake falls and melts, but a billion fall and create a place for skis to sail and float—sail and float.
Three years later, it was a brutally cold and windy dawn in central Pennsylvania on the summit of an old Air Force weather station turned ski resort named Blue Knob. At seven am, I was fully geared-up for my day as a ski-instructor, standing atop thousands of feet of white ice, purple daylight, and nothing but life’s offering of joy or pain. As my arms propelled my feet into perfectly carving figure-eight turns through snowflakes solidified into glassy ice, I felt the sting of thirty-mile an hour wind resisting my descent. Two miles of fifty-mile an hour turns finally came to a stand-still.
“Dude! Are you alright?” asked my peers.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” I blissfully smiled. “Why?”
“Look at your shirt!”
I had been armed with a full face-mask, but the January air still penetrated, causing my nose to release enough blood to soak my white turtleneck from turtle to belly. I examined what the others were seeing. Sniffling, I could not wipe the smile from my face. I had carved my way down the difficult icy slopes as a symphony screams and then purrs, in the worst weather, like an artist—unable to acknowledge or be aware of anything but the beautiful bliss of it all. For the first time, I realized I had come to truly meet, shake hands, and understand one of life’s great gifts—joy. With a bloody glove, I scooped a handful of snowflakes and wiped my face. The blood dried and washed, but my smile, and the memory of that day, eternally remains.
For my mother: You were right. Thank you. I love you.