Posts Tagged With: winter

Black Inner Tubes and Snowy Hills: Or How I Survived Childhood Winters and Lived then to Learn to Ski

“Skiing combines outdoor fun with knocking down trees with your face.”  ~Dave Barry

Photo by MHBowden

Photo by MHBowden

I grew up practically on a mountain, with snow five feet deep in our front yard every winter. (Except for that one inversion year when nothing but fog accumulated.) On the other side of the mountain lived a ski resort. A tiny one, but a place to ski nonetheless. The closest I ever came to skiing as a child or a teen involved black rubber inner tubes, defective ones apparently, because they always inflated lopsided.

Have you ever ridden an inner tube down the side of a mountain on the snow? If not, I have just given you a perfect bucket list item. You might want to save it as the very last item on your bucket list, though, as possibility of severe injury seems rather high.

On an inner tube you have absolutely no control over where you go, how fast you go or if/when you stop. (Why does it feel like I just described life? Hmmm.) The most likely outcome involves bodies splayed across the snow or wedged against objects or perched atop bushes and rocks with the inner tube still rocketing off into the distance another half mile or so. (Life metaphor again? Weird.)

Death Spiral

Photo by Iain Laurence

Photo by Iain Laurence

The advantage of having to hike so far to retrieve the inner tube comes in the contemplative time one has to reconsider the wisdom of perching atop the tube once more for another possibly life threatening ride to infinity and beyond. Unfortunately, screams of joy and terror, (which sound eerily alike to a youngster) push all logic and sanity out of ones frozen head and you find yourself yelling “COWABUNGA” as you leap on  the tube and launch yourself once more into a death spiral of epic proportions.

For that extra measure of danger we often careened in the dark, which added a sense of insanity to an already thrilling adventure. Surprisingly I and my siblings survived many winters participating in this sport.  Oddly, tubing hasn’t risen to the stature of an Olympic event yet. I suppose scoring could present a problem. Highest points for furthest launch from a tube? Extra points for landing in a tree? Bonus points for spinning more than ten times on the way down? It ought to rank in the X-games at least.

Back on Topic Now

But I meant to speak of skiing. My first time. Oddly enough riding an inner tube and using a set of skis and poles have frighteningly similar outcomes, especially those first few times down the hill.

Having slippery sticks attached to cement encased feet does not provide one with a sense of security or control. Neither, surprisingly, does having sharp pointy objects in either hand lend a sense of comfort or assurance. In fact, I wondered at first if MSH had grown tired of marriage after only four months of “bliss” and had found an easy way to dispose of me, à la Robert Redford in a mafia. Whoops, there she goes off a cliff. “I told her not to go down that black diamond run, but she insisted.”

Nah. MSH just wanted to share something he loved with the love of his life. Little did he know what an adventure he’d signed up for. (Life metaphor again?)

Evil Trees

Much like tubing down a snow-covered hill, my most vivid memory of my first day skiing involved a people-eating tree and my limbs hopelessly entangled in the branches of said tree. One leg pointed north while the other leg seemed wedged more south-southeast. Meanwhile one ski pointed down. The other ski had somehow become one with the snow. The poles, miraculously, didn’t shishkabob me, for which I was ever so thankful.

I tried my best to untangle and disengage to no avail. MSH “helped” by explaining which leg to move where, which didn’t help at all since I’d lost most feeling in my legs and couldn’t identify left from right. If I recall correctly I threw my poles his general direction along with a few select words, which I won’t share here. He finally helped by physically moving one of the skis. Once both legs aimed approximately in the same direction, after five minutes of struggle I managed to reach an upright position.

I think I threw a tantrum after that. Or maybe during that. In no uncertain terms, I let MSH know how unimpressed I felt with this sport of skiing. I also may have mentioned that I’d never, ever participate in such nonsense again.

Chocolate Saves the Day

Photo by By Baileypalblue

Photo by By Baileypalblue

Of course, after some hot chocolate in the lodge, and watching people shoosh and swoosh effortlessly for an hour, and getting bored beyond reason I found myself attempting to hitch a ride on a lift, all skiwampus, with my pride firmly buried in a snowdrift.

I eventually, somewhat mastered the art of something beyond the pie wedge style of beginners. I’m happy to report that as a family we enjoyed some great times on the mountains in the snow over the years.

To this day my son (who learned to ski with no effort whatsoever at age three) still puts himself to sleep at night by imagining snowboarding down his favorite ski run at his favorite resort. He says it’s the most relaxing thing he can think of, as natural as walking but way more fun.

It’s been a few years (a decade?) since I last threatened my poor knees with such reckless behavior as skiing. All for the best I’m sure. I’m satisfied to have the occasional falling dream and waking to memories of my youth careening down the side of a mountain on a black inner tube.

Ah. Those were the days.

Photo by Dbenbenn

Photo by Dbenbenn

~~~

There are really only three things to learn in skiing:  how to put on your skis, how to slide downhill, and how to walk along the hospital corridor.  ~Lord Mancroft

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Categories: Fun, Humor, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Vortex, S’mortex

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m grateful to live in the desert.

I don’t often feel terribly thankful for that. Brutal best describes summers here, and sometimes Spring and Autumn, as well.

Feeling grateful for mild warmth, not blasting heat or mean cold.

Feeling grateful!

But today, while most of the country dug out, or slid around or hunkered down in the onslaught of another polar vortex, we desert rats enjoyed eighty degrees. The windows stayed open all day, a breeze tickled the wind chimes, I watered my garden, walked the grand dog after dark without a sweater on and generally enjoyed perfectly pleasant weather.

I don’t say that to brag or to make others feel jealous. I really, truly do feel thankful that I don’t have to endure the meanness of temperatures in the teens. I couldn’t feel more happy that I’m not digging out a car from a snowdrift, or attempting to navigate roads covered in ice and snow.

Photo By Sage Ross (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Photo By Sage Ross  [CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

I spent a few decades in weather like that and it got old. Sometimes I fantasize about living somewhere with four distinct seasons. And then I visit somewhere that leaves me shivering regardless of how many layers I put on and the fantasy goes away for a while.

The icy chill that runs down my spine as I watch the news and weather reports about the rest of the country reminds me how thin my blood runs now that I’ve lived in the desert nearly twenty years. Once I liked the idea of shoveling for the exercise, or building snowmen, or the muffled sounds when snow falls. Now it simply makes me wince.

I planted radish, carrot and lettuce seeds on Saturday. Tiny green fruits grace the four-foot tall tomato plant in my garden. Jalapeno and green peppers ripen for salsa making. The oranges are just now turning from green to orange. And the flowers, oh my,  seem to double in size and amount almost every day.

A day like today serves as compensation and grand prize for enduring the onslaught of summer’s temper tantrum.  A few months of perfection with a few days of chilly and a Phoenix winter sounds just fine to me. Thank you, Typhoon Nuri, or God, or Mother Nature or all three! I appreciate the sweetness of the desert today.

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, phoenix | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Small Taste of Winter Into Spring

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m feeling particularly thankful. The temperature where I’m at is about thirty degrees cooler than back home. There’s snow covering the peaks to the west, and there’s a cloudy sky with a little warmth in the sunlight that breaks through.

I know to most people such things sound tiresome after the polar vortex of winter that’s just now petering out. To me it’s a welcome change from nonstop sun and heat of an extra dry desert winter.

Add in the giant bonus of meeting our newest family member and I’m just a little giddy. More than that, I’m simply overflowing with joy.

On such a day, even the winterbare trees seem joyous and welcoming.

Every child begins the world again…. ~Henry David Thoreau

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Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Electric Love

It’s Gratituesday! Today I am grateful for one of the most brilliant gifts I ever received.  You can’t imagine how surprised I was several years ago to unwrap a twin-sized electric blanket as one of my Christmas gifts from MSH.  We have a king-sized bed. A twin-size anything made no sense.  But then it did.

Master Suite - King Size Bed with Jungle View

The vast expanse of a King Size Bed! (Photo credit: Grand Velas Riviera Maya)

The blue fluffy wire-lined blanket fit perfectly on my half of the bed. I discovered that very night the wisdom of such a gift.

MSH slumbers in a well chilled, open windowed bedroom, fresh air pouring over his overheated, restless body. For good measure he runs the ceiling fan as well.  In such an environment I can only toss and turn and freeze, no matter how many blankets get heaped on top of me.  But now, ah yes, now with my gift of electric heated bliss, I can choose to have the warmth of a cat snuggling up to me, or I can bask in the heat of a Sahara summer, or any climate in between.

This isn’t a winter only gift.  Oh, no not at all. It is after all Phoenix, complete with heat islands and asphalt. Summers here are a sweltering desert. To survive we have air conditioning everywhere.

(Except for my car, usually the AC goes out on the first day of July.  Not sure why.  The infamous Tilby family car curse? But, I digress, that is another post.)

Unlike most households, we don’t just bring the temperature down to cool. MSH chills the house to the point that we all wear sweaters inside, except him. It’s comfortable for MSH and that is important.  We love him and want him comfy, too. At night, the thermostat gets set even lower.  As a result, my electric blanket often gets used in the summertime as well. Ah, sweet slumber.

I do think the electric blanket saved our marriage. Or at least it keeps me from finding another room to sleep in. Which would have made MSH feel sad and lonely, which would make me sad.  His inspired gift to me makes me love him even more, and reminds me nightly of his consistent thoughtfulness in so many other ways.

All hail the lowly blue blanket, plugged in and enhancing relationships a few precious degrees at a time.

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Beauty of Frost, The Power of Sunlight

Happy Winter Solstice!! Enjoy the sun while its up for its shortest amount of time all year.

Frost

Frost (Photo credit: ahisgett)

Been looking out across the park this morning at a layer of frost.  If I didn’t live in the desert I might have thought it was a smattering of snow.  We get frost here about a dozen times over the winter months. Fortunately I can usually just throw some sheets over my potted flowers, my veggie garden and a couple of frost sensitive plants.  They stay just cosy enough under that thin layer of fabric to keep from freezing. That just about defines our winter.

If only it were so easy to keep my flowers flourishing in the summertime here.  The price we pay for the extremely mild winter is an inversely proportionate brutal summer.  But that is a distance memory as well as a future I’m going to pretend away for now.

Here’s  a quote by Albert Camus that seems fitting, in a way:

“In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”            

Some days, this quote seems more true than others. On good days, it feels very true.  On days with too much weight in them, too many obstacles piled up, I’m not so sure I believe it.

Frost Ferns

Frost Ferns (Photo credit: CaptPiper)

Maybe that’s the problem right there. My lack of belief in myself.  I doubt my strengths, my ability to cope.  Which is silly.  Why doubt when I have evidence mounted to the ceiling that says otherwise?

Is it human nature to doubt ourselves?  Some people seem so sure of themselves, so sure of their invincibility, so confident.  Or is that a front, an act, a fakery?

I once had an impromptu discussion with a group of women about how we’re taught to see ourselves.  I still have the napkin that someone wrote on while we were talking. (thanks, Christine)  What we see in television and movies, in advertisements, in books, what we observe in human relationships, all tell us what the world expects us to be. Which is silly, mindless, inconsequential and powerless.  Think about it, look at the television shows you watch and tell me that isn’t what’s portrayed.

We decided that who and what we really are is more along these lines:

wise, sober, fun, intelligent, creative, focused, insightful, important, beloved, valuable, respected, powerful, influential, dependable, impactful, independent, stalwart, self-sufficient.

When was the last time you saw a person portrayed this way?  Do you believe those things about yourself?  Do I believe those things about myself.

Can I be fun without being mindless and silly? Do I really believe that I am respected, valuable and loved? Do I realize that I can have an impact, that I am powerful and influential? Do I feel, am I, independent and self-sufficient? Do I have insight, am I focused, am I creative and wise?

Maybe I need to remind myself every single day that I am all of those strong, good things.

Maybe the warmth and sunlight within me, needs to shine stronger to burn off the frost that the world would cover me with.

English: Winter Sunlight in Commonty Wood.

English: Winter Sunlight in Commonty Wood. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Here’s a fun, revival version of a song that might add a kick to your step today while it reminds you of your own sunlight and power.

This Little Light of Mine 

Categories: Joy, Outdoors, Wondering | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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