Up there in the indigo sky the stars are starting to switch on. At first it’s just darkness but as I squint up into that void I see a little glimmer in the corner of my eye and then back the other way, another sparkle springs to life. When I was a kid I came up with this idea that there was some little glowing star being that raced around in the sky yanking on pull chords that dangled from the stars, like the light bulb in my Grandma’s cold room, turning them on as the sky got dark. That’s what I’m picturing now.
I’m lying in the back of my SUV, parked off the side of the highway, at the foot of Mount McDougall. I’m in a sleeping bag with a bunch of quilts piled on top of me. That was one of the selling features for this vehicle. When I fold the back seat down there is enough space for my sleeping bag, a cooler, my guitar, my yoga matt. The essentials. That and the sun roof. It’s huge, probably 1/3 of the total roof space and when I’m lying back here I get a great view of the sky. It’s a familiar place. I’ve slept back here at least 10 times, but never in the winter! Its December 14th and its – 6⁰C.
I am camping in the back of my SUV so I can be the first person on the ski hill tomorrow. This is my first time skiing in 6 years. Since before my son was born. When I was younger I skied at least a few times a year. Shortly after my son was born though I became a single mama and skiing is not a cheap hobby. It wasn’t accessible for a long time to me but after a lot of hard work I’ve finally built myself up to a place where it is again.
I wake up in the morning and it is still dark out. I scramble around in the back and try to get some breakfast together. Fruit and an energy bar. I climb over into the front seat and turn the car on to try to find a radio signal….. success! God bless CKUA! With the music drifting from the car and my headlamp casting a flood of light on the ground below me, I set up my camp stove and make coffee. Then I squat, back leaning against the SUV waiting for the sunrise. It starts as a flush of pink and then floods across the sky like someone spilt grapefruit juice. It’s cold but this coffee is hot. It’s dark up here in Canada at this time of year a lot, but the sunrises are breathtaking.
After I watch the sunrise, I drive to the ski hill and am happy to find that I am one of the first there. I ride the lift up. Below me there are bumps and knolls that rise up from the hill every 20 feet or so. The snow on them has been melted into little dimples that look scale like in the sunlight that slips through the clouds. They’re like the humps of an enormous serpent gliding through the snow. Around me millions of trees wave their prickly arms in unison, a crowd of quietly cheering spectators. Up, up, I go, into the clouds that obscure the peak of the mountain from view.
At the top I push off from the lift and glide around to the edge of the hill. Up here it is quiet and white and still and glittering. The wind whistles around me. There is snow softly drifting, fluffy balls meandering around aimlessly, their goal of falling forgotten. I look down the steep hill, expecting fear, but it doesn’t come! When I was younger I used to always ski my first run of the year with my heart in my throat. I’ve done a lot of living though and it takes a hell of a lot to scare me these days.
The first run is remembering. Not so much in my head but in my body. My muscles and legs seem to know what to do and that makes me smile. At first I zig zag in short little burst using my quads to drive the edge of my skis into the snow. After a few runs though I’m bombing down the hill in long graceful effortless swoops, picking out my line with the natural curves and dips of the mountain. Then there’s the glades. In the glades I alternate between the short zig zags to dodge trees and long curves in the shoots that open up between lines of trees. The wind is rushing by me and I am smiling so wide my lips are cracking and I hear myself whooping to the sky as I fly across the snow.
These moments… like glittering stars in the night sky! These moments… when my soul is alive and on fire, glowing like a sun! And maybe I’m that little star being and I’ve just got to remember to yank those chords.