Adjusting My Dreams

“Hey Martha, when you dip my rawhide pencil in your coffee, I really like it. I want you to keep doing that, OK?”

“OK Bear. It’s better than finding a dozen of these things under the couch because you took them — begged for them! — and didn’t chew them! Rawhide pencils don’t grow on trees.”


“Never mind, sweet girl.”

“OH! You mean when I bury them!”


In the midst of all the weirdness here on Planet Weirdness, I have been rehabbing the shoulder and riding the bike-to-nowhere. The result? The shoulder is almost itself again, and I might be able to Langlauf assuming that the Old Farmer’s Almanac is wrong and our winter is NOT cold and dry but cold and snowy. The only problem right now is that I cannot get up from a fall as my shoulder isn’t 100% yet.

The other mechanical obstacle is that my skis need new bindings, and I’ll do that as soon as I am able to get up off the floor without the help of a chair or something.

I recently read Yellowstone’s Ski Pioneers: Peril and Heroism on the Winter Trail by Paul Schullery, a naturalist who worked in Yellowstone Park from 1972 to 2008. It’s a book about early skiing in Yellowstone Park, an activity no one did for fun, but was done to stop poaching. It’s not a great work of literature by any means, and the author loses the thread of his original “thesis,” but it’s a fascinating book. Back in the early days — the turn of the 20th century — and for quite a while into the 20th century — Yellowstone had been relatively undiscovered as a winter destination, but times have changed. At the end of the book he makes a quiet plea for people to leave The Park alone in winter.

“The ‘C-words,’ carrying capacity, caps, and ceilings, words that neither managers nor local commerce like to think about, are being heard more often all the time. Conservation groups are alarmed at the wildly accelerating (that is not too strong a term for what is happening) winter use of the park, travel in formerly isolated parts of the park has on park wild life, and managers are alarmed at the growing winter duties their budgets were not designed for.”

I’m completely happy to leave wild places to wild animals. Time was I believed I belonged with the wild animals in the wild places, but my beliefs have evolved. It was a long process that finally jelled when some local mule deer decided I was their friend. As I watched a doe approach me from a herd I’d been watching for some time, I saw that I couldn’t do her any good. I could only hurt her. Her natural curiosity, and the continuity of my (and Bear’s!) attention over weeks, had inspired her to act in a way that wasn’t in her self-interest. I called out to her, “I love you but I’m not your friend!” and waved my arms in the air, atypical behavior for me (in her perception, anyway). She stopped, pulled back her head and turned, bounding away. I never saw them again.

Nature isn’t a safari park.

The next time I saw her, she came all the way to the trees, not more than 20 feet from me 😦 . The other 8 members of this small herd, stayed back a bit. They had discovered good cover in the long line of tank cars and good browse in the hay fields beyond…

I had the “dream” of spending the time near/around my 70th birthday skiing in Yellowstone Park. That’s something I’ve dreamed of since I started x-country skiing. After reading this book, I abandoned that dream. I don’t think The Park needs another person on its fragile winter trails, another person on a “snow-coach,” or another person on a snow mobile. It occurred to me that snow is snow, mountains are mountains, and Bear and Teddy can’t ski.


Another Good Book

Last year I read No Horizon is So Far by Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft. It was their joint telling of they journey across Antarctica on skis pulling sleds. I loved the book. I’ve read a lot of adventure stories written by men, but this one? Two women, both teachers, was decidedly different. I just finished Arnesen’s earlier book (recently translated into English from Norwegian), Skiing into the Bright Open in which she relates some of her experiences skiing solo from the edge of Antarctica to the geographical pole in 1994. It was different, too. In this book, Arnesen even write about that, wondering if there is a psychological difference in the way men and women experience similar adventures. She refers a couple of times to Reinhold Messner’s Antarctic journey (which, at the time, was pretty topical).

Many things in this book struck me, but her passage about religion was the only section I marked irrevocably with a DEEP dog ear. In the middle of her journey, she “celebrated” the halfway point with a film-can (yep) of an intoxicating beverage — Drambuie — some deep thoughts, writing in her journal and reading poetry. For her the moment was significant because at that point there was no turning back. That ship had sailed; the question of a return was moot. With every step — though she wore skis she wasn’t gliding much, just trying to stay upright and cross crevasses; the skis acted as bridges — she would move further and further from her starting point. In a way, the halfway point is the moment of total commitment. Arnesen pondered that moment and wrote:

“I knew I would never again be so alone in such a deserted place. I tried to examine my thoughts carefully: was I frightened, had I discovered something new about myself, was I in touch with higher powers? I felt no anxiety but noticed considerable tension in my body. What I felt above all was peace of mind. I had never felt calmer or more secure. I felt intensely alive. It was immensely satisfying to achieve what I’d believed possible…As the days turned into weeks, I felt that the open spaces, wind, and weather had begun controlling me, setting my natural rhythm. I felt a powerful communion with nature, with the weather, as if I was a natural part of the whole. I felt it must have been a religious experience in its true sense.”

She writes about the religion she grew up with (white-bearded God on a cloud) then writes: “I feel more in common with those who declare religion to be a link between one’s body and soul and the rest of the far as I’m concerned, religion has nothing to do with the worship of God, ritual or racial conflict; it’s about the individual, nature, and the universe all being in tune.” Liv Arnesen, Skiing into the Bright Open

Here in the San Luis Valley, each season has about 6 weeks of unadulterated purity, pure summer is usually from June 21 to the end of July more or less. Pure winter is from the end of December to mid-February. Spring is a long mess of ambivalence. Fall is a kind of paradise, pure between the end of September until November. The OTHER weeks of the year you feel the coming season sneaking in slowly. Right now, the summer night temps in the fifties (10 c) are slowly being invaded by nights in the 40s. That transformation is beginning and I welcome it. It will do that, returning to summer night temps, for the next few weeks then, sometime in September, I will worry about frost taking my beans.

The other night, it was so cold that I dreamed of snow. In my dream I was skiing on rainbows. My skis left tracks, spectra, in the beautiful white. I was aware, in the dream, of skiing on light itself. I’ve often been out there and noticed the angled winter light hitting the tiny prisms crystalline snow. The destination — as is the destination of all the snow that falls here in Heaven — was the Rio Grande River. In my dream it was partially frozen. The cottonwoods and willows around it were bare. The world of my dream had the pure silence of winter.