Grasshopper soup: what heaven may be like
Special to the Sun
An image of Heaven itself cannot compare to a Tahoe summer, unless this last week looked like Heaven. Who doubts it did? Heaven blessed us with two summers this year, the second one arriving with the Autumnal equinox. A third summer in late October would top that, as long as we get a major, week-long dump of Sierra cement the next day.
Divine harvest weather has fired the imagination, pride, ego and suspicion of soldiers, farmers, outsiders, poets and everyone else for tens of thousands of years, resulting in a global variety of related weather terms.
Indian summer was apparently coined in 1778 in and#8220;Letters From An American Farmer,and#8221; by J.H. St. John de Crevecour, a soldier who wisely turned to farming. His phrase sailed swiftly to England where the daffy Brits didnand#8217;t realize it referred to Native American Indians, and not the British Raj of India.
As is commonplace when no one knows, we guess. I guess Indian Summer grew from suspicion and mistrust between Native American Indians and European settlers, and the fact that Indian raids didnand#8217;t end until sometime in Autumn.
For those born to ski, a good Indian summer like this can mean only one thing and#8212; going bonkers! Only going to Hell is worse. We are crazy for snow, almost as crazy as people who think they know exactly what Heaven is, and blame God for not delivering.
Yes, some of us were born to ski. Why do you think we spend nine months in the womb in the fetal position? We call it the tuck position, pointed straight down hill, totally centered and waiting in the fall line for the pull of gravity to release us from the womb on the top of The Kitchen Wall or The Palisades at Squaw Valley USA, Keyhole Chute at Alpine Meadows or the steepest and longest, simply called The Chutes at Mt. Rose.
But skiing is more than the daredevil surrender to gravity on slippery boards down a snow covered mountain. And it is more than dynamic balance maintained on those same slippery boards in a free fall off a cliff. And it means more than sticking the landing.
Skiing is a love affair with mountains, no matter what the season is. Our dance floor, year around, is the mountains. The snow is a welcome cushion, or a booby trap, depending on conditions, or your own knowledge of what may be lurking underneath.
Skiing is about a grand perspective, a clear and total vision. Ski instructors call it and#8220;looking at infinityand#8221;. It means watching the constantly changing horizon as far as you can see, the distant valley floor where the serpentine creek meanders through the meadow, matching you turn for turn. It means the freedom and calm that comes from watching the mountains all around you as they teeter totter from side to side, dancing with you all the way, as one second your feet are like a jackhammer, the next a feather touch. Skiing is the ecstasy of glorious chaos giving way to sublime order. Hopefully.
When we ski we become part of the mountain. If we ignore it to watch ourselves, or ski to be seen, the mountain will become our nemesis. If we betray our love for the mountain by clinging to our own image while we take what it gives, we no longer see the mountain. Much like life itself, the mountain will become jealous and exact revenge.
The mountain is always steeper and more precipitous without snow. In summer we are truly humbled when we see our favorite mountain covered with fallen timber and rocks. Summer enhances our respect for mountains, and makes us appreciate even more the magnitude of what we do up there in winter.
We were born to love the mountains. And they love us back. They see infinity in us.
Even when we stand on the edge of the ocean, the mountains are with us.
Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, ski instructor and commercial driver. He’s lived at Lake Tahoe for 27 years.
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