Don Rogers: Hail to the pizza wedge
Is there such as thing as starting too late?
Illness and rotten luck may rob us, but I don’t see that age does. Not in careers, taking up an art, a sport, changing politics, religion, lovers. There’s a Grandma Moses for all of these. She began at 78. Began.
We can move, go back to school, have children, run for office, wed. Stop smoking, start smoking. Same with alcohol, cannabis, diet, working out, rising early or late, reading, writing, coding, whatever.
We are not cement, at least not the hardened variety. We don’t set. Ever.
We always have a choice. Yep, a free will. Such a shame we almost never exercise it. Too bad we fool ourselves so easily with when we imagine is too late.
Certainly I don’t mean that because we can change we must. Not at all. I like where I work and what I do. I love my spouse, most of my habits. But tattoos hold no appeal.
All these are up for reconsideration, always, however unlikely I’d change my mind. The point is I’m free to choose, though also responsible for my choices. None are lightly taken. This is not the stuff of whim. A tattoo is kind of forever.
Oh, I wish I didn’t like beer quite so much or broccoli better. Bad habits feel like prison bars or destiny, but they aren’t cement, either. Don’t be fooled, I tell myself. I’ve made my choices here, too. I’m no inmate, no hostage. Not when I hold the keys.
These are funny things to think about while Nordic skiing at Tahoe Donner on Easter Sunday, sliding like socks on hardwood. Well, if those socks were tied by the toe to toothpick-wide planks and the floor far from flat.
Funny because I’ve pondered my love relationship and recommitted, reviewed my career choice enough to know this fire still burns hot. And while hardly reborn in a conventional sense, I do contemplate spirit continuously. The big deals in life.
But I had closed my mind to this new little thing, Nordic, for whatever reason. I’m no stranger to snow or sliding. I love snowboarding. Nothing beats the flow, the feel, the rush when all is clicking.
And I hardly lack for opportunities. My son and daughter-in-law teach cross-country skiing, and have offered me passes often.
There’s my knee, sore and laterally suspect. How would it go loosely locked onto sticks sliding all over? How do you even turn, stop? Never mind that I’ve abused the joint for decades on basketball courts, still run trails, and ride far faster and steeper than this. But those are all knowns. I know how to compensate, what I can and can’t do. What I can get away with.
And, secretly, there’s plain ol’ vanity, ego. In the abstract, I’m happy to espouse humbling as good for perspective, healthy even. In real life, on actual snow, flailing and slipping, embarrassing myself? Maybe not so much.
But no getting out of it this time, swept up with family off to the Nordic center, punched in, sized up, handed boots, then poles and those impossibly skinny skis. Grin and bear it, be a good sport, apply all that perspective, that high-minded philosophizing about human potential, how we can do whatever we put our minds to, learn new things, never too late. Blah, blah.
Grandma Moses, brother. Grandma Moses. Now get on out there.
And so I did. My daughter-in-law, patient as the mother she is now, made all the difference.
Pizza wedge, she said, my oracle. Then: Let’s practice. So we found a wide spot with a gentle slope. Who knew? Other than generations of children following their blue-coated instructors, lines of goslings. Pizza wedge. Well, of course. The secret to skiing, maybe life itself.
A puzzle piece snapped into place, an epiphany. My mountain of dread evaporated with the wedge. I could do this! No more fearing downhills. I could take the flats and test easier slopes.
I fell. Backward as feared. Forward out of sheer clumsiness. Got up. Climbed. Glided. Pizza wedged. Fell some more. The knee held up, and I grew confident. I finished hungry.
The Easter spirit rose within, renewal, rebirth, ready to go, ready for more.
Too bad this was the last day of the season. The end. Where had I been all winter for want of a pizza wedge? How could I have let it all slip past until now? I’m just getting started.
Don Rogers is the publisher of the Sierra Sun and The Union, based in Grass Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4299.