Monday, January 24, 2011

Dancing with the stars...and the moon...and the snowflakes

The past two weekends I have taken advantage of J's agreement that in exchange for my efforts during the year and a half he was in Vail, I can pick a morning each weekend to head up the mountains and ski. 

It's been kind of great.  The first time it was kind of overcast, so the light wasn't the greatest, but conditions were good and I had the supremely peaceful and exhilarating experience of being the first of the day to glide down a run and make fresh tracks, all alone.  Yesterday was even better, because I knew the mountain a little bit more and knew where to go and where not to, plus it was a gorgeous sunny day with bluebird skies and plenty of fresh powder. 

One of my favorite parts of the day is the drive up.  Which may sound odd, given that in order to beat the traffic and avoid turning a 1 1/2 hour drive into 2 or 3 hours, I leave at 6 a.m.  And that's not starting to load the car up at 6.  That's pulling out of the driveway at 6, when there's still at least an hour of darkness left. 

But it's beautiful darkness.  Quiet.  Clear, crisp air, with the moon and the stars looking bright and sparkly. 

And I've always liked driving at night.  There's a woman in my office who, before becoming a public interest lawyer, was a commercial long-haul trucker.  I don't know that I could do that for a living, but sometimes I can sort of see the appeal of doing a job that allows you so much alone time.  In college when we made the 20 hour trek from Charlottesville to Key West for spring break, I would take the graveyard shift, driving from 2 to 5 in the morning.  There's always wonderfully random talk radio on at that hour.  Or you can listen to old blues and just think.

A dark car is also a great place to have crazy intimate conversations.  I once drove home from law school with a guy that was from the same home town.  We left late and drove at night because he had a late class or something like that.  He was a friend, but we didn't know each other *that* well.  But sitting in the dark with someone without actually looking at them, while you watch the world go by, has a way of breaking down conversational walls.  The darkness takes on a velvety protective quality - and you end up telling all kinds of deep dark secrets.  Which we did.

The weekend morning trek up the mountain has the feeling of a pilgrimmage.  I head west and by the time I've hit the highway, I'm part of a community of other locals, awake at an insane hour, drinking coffee, carbo-loading on Pop-Tarts or breakfast burritos, skis strapped to the roof of the car.  I sometimes mentally pull back, like a movie camera, and in my head I can see the cars, white and red lights all in a line, heading west and up, to the snow. 

I drive along, marvelling at the beauty around me but also deep in my own head.  I admire the twinkly Christmas lights still up in Empire, which reminds me of Christmas morning, which makes me think of Zeke and Josie opening their presents, which makes me think of Zeke and Josie generally and how cute they are, which makes me think of Zeke's new skis and how cool it will be when he can head up the slopes with me and we can ski together, which makes me think of my cousin's kids who can already ski, which makes me think of my cousin and her husband who are currently on a trip in India, which reminds me of high school -- my brain skips around and skips around.  Until I'm jolted back by the sight of the sun rising over the mountains as I wend my way over Berthoud Pass.  The sky's blackness gives way to streaks of pink and white and orange, and that feeling of being ensconced in my own little coccoon dissipates. 

A half an hour later, I'm in the parking lot.  I open the car door to start putting on my ski pants and getting my gear together.  A blast of 5 degree air hits me in the face, and my day begins all over again.

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