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.
Sometimes you just have to do things in order. First things first. No exceptions.
Oh, I want to put things behind me and just “get on with it.” But life is not a ‘now we join our regularly scheduled program, already in progress’ experience. Stuff happens. Sometimes it is big stuff, and we need to put on the brakes, step off the roller coaster, and put that big item at the top of our to-do list. Everything else takes a seat. Not a back sat, mind you, but its place tossed with everything else in the trunk. You’ll unscramble it later.
Well, God-willing, the later does come. You unlatch the trunk and everything you were doing, everything everybody wanted you to do, and everything you had big plans for smiles up at you. It’s like a trunk full of golden retriever puppies, wagging and whining and hoping you’ll pick them up first. It is very tempting to just fling yourself in the trunk and submit to death by licking.
But that would be self-serving and irresponsible, so you resist. Instead, you stand there and try to decide which puppy to pick up. Which needs me the most? Which is clamoring for attention? Perhaps if I just clear a few away, either by pushing them to the side or setting them free to run around, then I’ll see the one who is really meant for me. (Honest aside: we have been looking at puppies) While that sounds like a terrific strategy, it isn’t working. And I think it’s because there’s an order to things: first things first, no exceptions.
I have uncovered this as I have tried to move on to the “next thing” but been prevented. This is not to say that I am twiddling my thumbs until a light bulb illuminates and I know just what to do. It is more that I am trying to mount several stairs at a time and something reminds me to take just one. And because life seems to be moving so fast at present, today it feels like I am on the slalom course, moving at break-neck speed, and the forces of nature unite with the rule-makers to remind me that I must go around each gate on the blue course to stay in the competition.
What I had been trying to do is join the racers, already in progress. Skip the first few gates and catch up with my friends. Nope. But please, won’t you take pity on me? I got a late start, had some trouble with my bindings, my goggles fogged up, I…please?
But the longer I wait in the starting gate, the further behind I get. So I blast out and cut my turns as sharply as I can around one blue gate, then another. I’m pretty good through three, but the slope steepens and I’m picking up speed. I miss the fourth gate altogether, whizzing past without turning, and the fifth gate is upon me in a split second. Might as well continue; perhaps no one will notice. It can’t be helped.
Yes it can. I slam on the brakes just shy of the fifth gate and sidestep up the mountain. Gate #4 demands navigating. Something about its terrain, its pace, or its trajectory is designed to teach me, heal me, and lead me into Gate 5. Everything in order, all the way to the finish line if you want a score and maybe a chance at a medal.
So, while death by licking has its appeal, life in an ordered course is being exacted from me now. Articles, emails, meetings, phone calls, they’re my gates. Each in order. Now to establish that rhythm…
Why is it that 10 inches of new powder on the mountain delights and 10 inches piled high on my driveway derides? Same lovely white sparkle. Same fluffy consistency. Same complete coverage of everything in sight. The difference: perspective. One, I am meant to go out and play in. The other, I must plow through so I can get about my business.
This hits me like a 2×4, having just returned home from a brief skiing vacation in Utah. There, we stayed at the home of some friends at a virtual ski lodge nestled in hills near Park City. Sitting at the breakfast table my view of the mountains through the three story great room window was magnificent. Peak after peak of white, punctuated with evergreens, framed against an azure sky. Nothing compares, yet we haven’t even headed up the mountain.
I am completely dwarfed sitting there. In awe of the mountains and sky, yes, but also in this lodge of a home. Perhaps because mountain majesty rains in on all sides, the homes are gigantic, the expanse of windows taking advantage of every opportunity to show it off. This means the inside is beyond spacious. And so it must be filled to its proportions: furniture is large and plentiful, wall decoration gratuitous, chandeliers and lighting extensive, walkways and hallways and stairwells built to match. Even the kitchen decor has extra. Extra high cabinets, extra counter space, an extra dishwasher, automatic everything. Even the dishware seems pageantry, not a small bowl or a saucer in the lot. Everything is supersized.
And sitting in its midst I feel very, very small. Majesty does this to you. It right-sizes you. But this home, this lodge draws a caution from me. When we live large, we furnish large, appoint large, accessorize large. Because it fits. And living in that space, what’s large seems just right. Because in proportion to all that’s around it, it is. Try to take a picture to demonstrate the largess and you can’t; everything is in proportion. It doesn’t look large at all.
And isn’t that the nature of the “relative.” Proportion is established by comparison. Oh, it’s not that big compared to his house. It’s not that expensive compared to her dress. It’s not that extravagant compared to their vacation. Humans compare. And we will always fall short. But we keep up so we carry on.
Strangely and very lamentably, the view from the breakfast table started to lose its luster by the 3rd day. Still gorgeous, it was no longer breathtaking like it was on the first. I had gotten “used” to it. I was more animated by changes to its look: sunrise glow and sunset amber, a helium balloon taking off, incoming clouds that brought that powder. Much as I had become accustomed to the accommodations: where the light switches were, which bowls to use and how to work the coffee maker.
Grandeur may grab us but life is what drives us, whether to swoosh through the powder or shovel it in high drifts. Many things out there will right-size us, thank God. But because we do tend to get carried away and not even know it, I am so grateful to have the One thing at the center which doesn’t change in size or shape or price or composition. It is so important for our sense of comparison to have something against which all can be measured fairly and accurately and honestly.
One thing that didn’t diminish in that lovely Park City setting was the dark morning sky; pitch, sprinkled with twinkle and glow. The new moon leaning away shyly from the bold glow of a planet, perhaps Jupiter or Venus? Each of the mornings I tiptoed down the wide staircase while all others were asleep and peered out the back picture window. The stars smiled back in greeting with a perfect “W” – the constellation Cassiopeia. I supposed it was for W-endy.
That God, having some fun. Just dashed off a little note for me on the stationery of the morning sky. “Dear child, before you were born I put the lights in the sky. They are mine as you are mine.” Such a small gesture for a God so large, yet so tender, loving and intimate.
Perhaps, had I wandered outside under those stars I would have heard Him chuckle and say, “If she loves this, wait till she sees the room I have prepared for her.”