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November in Gothic

On the second to last day of October I came across a set of bear tracks. My friend Richard and I had set out from Gothic on bikes and were six miles up valley when the snow became too deep to ride. The tracks appeared in the snow, large and clawed. Unmistakable. We followed them for over half a mile up the road until they meandered up the hillside. Strange, I thought, that the bear should be wandering up in elevation, into deepening snow. Surely it was focused foremost on food, in the midst of building the last of its fat layer before hibernating. What it hoped to find in the snow I know not.

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Bear tracks are good reminder that there are animals out there that can kill you. Photo by Richard.

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One of Eighty, A Parable

A layman went to visit the Buddha, traveling many miles to seek his advice. As he stood before the Buddha he said, “Bodhisattva, I have many problems in my life”.

The Buddha replied, “I cannot help you with those”.

“Well then”, the man said, “I also have problems with my business”.

“I cannot help you with those either”, said the Buddha.

“What good is this then?” asked the man.

“There are 80 kinds of suffering”, the Bodhisattva replied, “and I cannot help you with any but one”.

“What is the one?”

“How you deal with the other 79”, the Buddha answered.

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The Challenge

(This post has been relocated to another date, though it was really published in December of 2011.  There are good reasons for this that will not be explained.)

Other people always tell me that they envy my lifestyle.  At least, my peers do (anyone from 18-40 years old I’ll count among that group).  There’s no denying that I lead a blessed life.  I spend practically every day doing what I love to do, and the small evils are easily recognized as necessary to support maximum time in the mountains and among friends.  I have the time, energy, and the little bit of disposable income to be able to pay attention to myself, to my body, and how to make it stronger and keep it healthy.  I have few obligations.  I owe no debts but to my parents.  I’m mobile, and that mobility allows me to meet many fantastic people living extraordinary lives whom I otherwise never would have met.

Extra-ordinary is a good way to explain this way.  Outside ordinary– outside the script, the easily described path, the known trajectory.  To be outside of this highway that so many take from conception to the nursing home is to draw usually-subtle but pernicious criticism.  I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that this is because those traveling that beaten road understand those outside of it to be a subtle threat to their comfort.  We, if they would let us, make them question themselves.  But they put up a strong fight, doing nearly anything to avoid introspection.  This is my own speculation.  They call it immature, or selfish.  They lecture.  They weave stories about lives off the path to protect their own stories.  This, not speculation, is awfully clear.

Tonight, I simply wanted to speak about this as one of the big challenges to my lifestyle, because it’s digging into me and needs voicing if it’s to be removed.  This passive guerrilla-war of judgement is hard to be rid of.  In truth, part of me subscribes to the idea that I am being selfish, immature, imprudent.  This has been ingrained.  But to me, inner-conflict has come to be the mark of this life; it is a sign that each step is being considered and lived, not passed by on autopilot.  I refuse the path, but will continue to battle with it until perhaps my way leads to full self-realization.  I can have no other way. Read on →

Where Have All The Warriors Gone?

The consequences are part of the appeal, and character comes of consequence.

There’s a line in Fight Club that says, “We are a generation of men raised by women.”  That’s not quite the problem.

One of the big perks of living in the world of dedicated climbers and skiers is the opportunity to meet men and women of good character.  Sure, there are a lot of jokers at high levels of both sports whose main and honest reason for participation is that they get to claim themselves as participants, that they get to tell others that they’re a climber, or a skier, who is, by the way, awesome.  But, for the most part, the people who are drawn to sports of commitment seem to be those of solid values who push themselves against risk to further their self-knowledge and feed their sense of adventure.

I call this a perk because it’s uncommon to find such people at large in the rest of the world.  This is especially true of men.  At a concert that I attended last night, I was frankly a bit shocked to see that the wall flowers glued defensively to the sides of the venue were all men.  That doesn’t jive with the traditional image of the shy girl off to the side, waiting to be drawn onto the floor by a confident man.  That doesn’t jive because the gender in question seems to be losing its collective confidence.

The evidence against us isn’t limited to the walls of concert venues.  In my conversations with women, a common theme arises when we talk about their troubles finding partners.  Sure, there are plenty of men out there, but they all act like boys.  For women dating men in their early twenties, this isn’t all that surprising, and is maybe even excusable, but the theme extends to gents in their thirties and even their forties.  In short, they’re either egoistic to a fault, or more commonly, they’re needy, lack confidence, and can’t keep up a mature relationship. Read on →

Wild Lust

I have an illness called Wild Lust.

When it comes on, I’m debilitated and unable to work effectively. That’s why I call it an illness. To call it such is more a what-other-people-think-about-it thing.  Really, it’s more like a vibration in my heart, or a line drawn up my center towards somewhere else that I’m not.

I said somewhere else, but its not a certain somewhere that the Wild Lust draws me.  It grabs me when I need to be taken away, and it takes me to where I can find what I need.  It doesn’t give it to me, but it makes the finding possible.  It does this no matter how unreasonable I think it.

The Wild Lust often causes problems.

I can’t always follow the Wild Lust when it comes on, just like sometimes I get sick but can’t admit it because I’ve too much to get done that week.  When that happens, the symptoms of the Lust creep out through my shell like a runny nose.  I drink too much to lose my balance.  I jump on my bike when I should be going to bed to get lost down dark streets I don’t know.  I write to find an outlet when I’m caged up by my bedroom walls.

The Wild Lust is the gravity of a life in movement.   The lightness of traveling somewhere new, of moving beyond what I know and am comfortable with, is the feeling that I call vitality.  To stay in one place is fine so long as other unmapped territories are on the menu: adventures of mind or spirit or body can take place anywhere.  But there’s really no substitute for a new place, where I no know one and have no way to define myself but by how I act and how I explore.  To be uncertain of the outcome and then to succeed is the ultimate satisfaction.

Part of me wishes that I could be happy to seek a still contentment, but as it is, I’m a stir-crazy young Siddhartha looking for all that the world can offer.  Just like the 8-fold path, there’s only one way that the Wild Lust affliction progresses;

At first it tickles, and then it prods.  It grows more difficult to ignore until it gnaws.  Prudence and savings fall by the wayside, as do projects, classes, diet, and hygiene.  In a sudden moment, the Lust becomes unbearable, and movement instantly becomes the first priority.

Then I’m off, to elsewhere.

Alive again.

Mountain Time

I’ve lived in Salt Lake City for about a month now.  This stay is the period on the end of a long and rambling sentence that tried to describe what I wanted from my life for the last several months (years?).  Salt Lake has no streets; it has highways, interstate routes.  It has no beer under $10, and few restaurants that aren’t chains.  It’s flat, it’s grey, and its pollution makes Beijing look like Fern Gully.  But Salt Lake does have one thing going for it.

From my house, it takes my trusty Subaru thirty minutes of sometimes dicey driving to reach Entry 4 at Snowbird.  I work at Snowbird, but mostly, I ski at Snowbird.  I also ski in White Pine, in Red Pine, in Grizzly Gulch.  Salt Lake has mountains.

An unexpected change takes place when life, love and work all take you into the mountains daily.  When my day begins, the sun is rising on the tips of white peaks as I drive up canyon.  As my day ends, it sets behind the mountains to the West of the city, which is itself framed by the deep V of the valley mouth that fills my windshield as I drive down Little Cottonwood Canyon.  Though my work imposes a certain sort of unnatural rhythm on my day, the rhythm of my mind and my body are driven by the movement of a day in the mountains.

To have skis under my feet every day gives me the freedom to become intimately acquainted with one mountain.  I’m always driven to explore the big valleys and hanging bowls of the Wasatch, but to know the little closets and hallways of one mountain well enough to ski it in a blizzard gives me a funny feeling.  It’s best compared to feeling at home.  It’s a funny to feel like I drive up-valley to come home during the day, only to sleep elsewhere, but I think I like it.

My body is changing as it spends more time at home.  It’s not as soft as it used feel.  It’s smaller too, but warmer.  My face now takes the wind readily, without getting pissed at the cold and the wind and the snow.  They feel more like a cool, cleaning shower, especially when a slashing turn throws a breaking wave of snow into my mouth.

Living the dream, Rodney called it.  When he said that, I wasn’t feeling it.  I didn’t feel like I was spending my life how I wanted to.  Those questions are gone now.  It’s not that they’ve been answered, it’s just that they aren’t that important these days.  Life is more about food and people and the mountains.  It’s about the tiredness that feels like a warm blanket at the end of the day, and brilliant exuberance that fills my wordless mind when I fly down a slope that’s yet to be touched by my skis.

Occasionally, I get the impulse to start making tallies; Tallies of what I’ve managed to do, what I’d like to, step by step charts, action items.  But that doesn’t last long when you’re tired, and the tiredness that comes from burning off my excesses in the cold snow might very well be the answer to all those pesky questions.  Life, purpose, meaning.  The philosopher’s luxury of time is also his curse.  I’m going skiing.

Moon Above the Ice Field

Moon Above the Ice Field, originally uploaded by raventrickster.

“It’s hard to describe to somebody why you do it, but the important thing, and the lesson almost is THAT you do it.  Simply that you do IT.  SOMETHING.
You try it. You go for it.”
-Timmy O’neill