There is just something majestic about the view from the chairlift, mountains of rolling powder speckled with evergreens and interstitial aspens. The sky rising above them is an impossible blue, and the bright orb of sun insists you avert your eyes until green branches deflect the intensity and invite a moment of marvel. White sparkles dance as the wind whispers in a solo performance just for you. It makes you want to sing!
My revelry is periodically interrupted by the swooshing and scraping of skiers below as a montage of color and form ebb and flow some thirty or forty feet below my dangling feet. Off goes speed racer at break neck speed while granny traverses smoothly and gracefully. Newcomer is stiff and purposeful. Small one is effortless. There goes Tigger in a striped one-piece jumpsuit, not to be outdone by Pooh and the Chick fil-A cow.
This slope is marked “blue” for “intermediate” skiers, and the signs say “more difficult.” Intermediate obviously spans a wide range, each one with his own style and flourish. No two alike, they twist and turn, bend and bow; several topple and crash or slide to a panicked stop. The human motion is painfully at odds with the peace and order all around them. We intervene and bring disorder with us, all in our own way. What a mess!
There is no one right way to do this, I think, as I disembark at the top and boldly enter the fray. When the pitch is gentle and the slope is groomed I am effortless, swishing smoothly right and left; I OWN this trail. But the second it gets steep, or there are bumps, or trees, or other skiers in my way, my form deteriorates. I stomp, skid, dig, waver, flail and panic. In short, I’m a mess. I’m sure THAT provided plenty of entertainment for the folks on the lift overhead. I take a deep breath and adjust my goggles, ready to start again with humility and some semblance of control restored.
How like life is this skiing. I have freely chosen the “more difficult” slope, but it is up to me to find my way down. I am pretty doggone capable on the cruisers, but when the going gets tough, my mettle is tested. I am tempted to panic and sit back on my skies, but that would make things worse. The capable skier leans down the hill, toward the steepness, accepting the risk. The moment I do, I gain control and can turn and maneuver and regain my balance. In the next challenge I am better, more confident and more capable. I’m less mess, more me.
The smooth cruising may feel good, but it’s the bumps in my terrain that challenge me to perfect my technique. I have to be better to navigate the tough stuff. That’s good to know, because life doesn’t hand us too many cruisers. It offers us way more moguls and some pretty steep stuff, again and again. That can get pretty messy.
Thank goodness the Lord of the landscape I am traversing has a view that is higher than the chairlift and a touch closer than the snow beneath my skies. How clever to have created us with such variety that each one must discover his own best navigation on the slopes of life, one run at a time.