Happy… this thing! Happy six day of 2022.
We are all still doing it. I’m so grateful you’re here with me. I’m so grateful I’m here with you.
I took some fraught time off at the end of the year, full of omicron news and uncertainty and joy and even, in the end, a ski trip.
My favorite thing that happened to me during this time was a huge tumble down a steep slope into piles and piles of powdery snow.
My husband and I had two hours of grown-up ski time before we had to go back to the lodge to pick up our kids from their lessons, and I wanted to make the most of it. All morning, I had that quality of rushed energy that makes me a little klutzy.
It’s a big mountain. We got lost, and soon we were running late to pick up the kids.
At the top of the hill it was windy. I had to shout.
“Alan!” I shouted. “There it is. See??” I pointed toward the lodge I saw, very far away. “Let’s just ski down that way. To the right!”
We started out easily enough.
“Stay to the right!” I kept bellowing, until eventually we found ourselves at the top of a steep slope, one of those short, steep slopes you see professional snowboarders and skiers jump over and land at the bottom of… because they’re too steep to ski down.
We’d gotten away from the crowds. No one was behind us or in front of us. There wasn’t a way to turn around and get back to the beaten path. The snow was at least 12 feet deep, the top layer just as powdery and fresh as it had been when it had fallen the day before.
As a teenager, I was a very good skier. Back then, I might have made it down this hill unscathed. But not now. Yet, we had no other choice. From all the time I put into skiing 20+ years ago, I still had some muscle memory, including a kind of mental muscle memory – my own favorite things to say to myself right before taking on a challenging slope.
Don’t pause too long at the top of the mountain; you’ll psych yourself out.
It looks steeper than it will feel once you start skiing.
You don’t have to make it pretty; just get down the hill.
Alan sat at the top of the slope. “I’m going!” I shouted as I made my first turn.
And then my ski caught in the soft snow, and I turned 180 degrees, with the tips of my skis pointing straight up the hill. I screamed (not unlike this fine person) as I got tangled up, fell down on my back, with my skis still connected to my feet. The tips were up in the air as I began to slide down on my back. The bindings gave way and the skis flew off.
Then it was me and the slope, and nothing else. I remember feeling like a fairy godmother had tapped my chest with her wand and all my tension floated out my fingertips.
I softened my rigid body, let my arms extend out like I was floating in a Palm Springs pool on a sunny day (though the gap between my sweater and my pants was getting wider, allowing more and more snow in), and I slid down the hill on my back, headfirst, gaining speed.
I thought, “I will slide until I stop.” And I did.
“One can easily see the metaphorical resonance in that.”- one of my favorite lines from The Wild Braid by Stanley Kunitz and Genine Lentine.
“I will slide until I stop.”
Surrender is a risk. What if I had slid down the slope and hit my head on a rock? But I wasn’t scared of that in the midst of all that snow. So, I waited for the slope to become gentle again, so I could come to a stop. It did, and I did.
Here’s my hope for you in 2022. Here’s the thing I can give you in exchange for your presence here: guidance to find your own writerly safe place full of pillows and marshmallows and powdery snow so you can take a tumble or two (hundred), or however many you require to write something true.
To take some risks, knowing you’re in a safe place to do so.
I am here to create a community with those of you who are creating those soft places for yourselves, so you can step into the challenge of starting/continuing/finishing your book this year.
To challenges that end in tumbles into softness, everyone.
PS: BTW, it took me forever to get my skis back on, and then… we never got to the lodge! Not on that run. In the end, we were very late picking up the kids. But it was worth it. How much more fun was all that than it would have been to ski a few uneventful runs with the big crowds?