Grasshopper Soup: Life at the top of the mountains |

Grasshopper Soup: Life at the top of the mountains

If cold air descends, and warm air goes up, why is it colder in the mountains? Just checking to see of you’re awake this morning.

One of the best things about living in the mountains is we are up high. When the world below 6,000 feet collapses, fewer rocks will fall on us. Thirty years ago I moved here to ski. Now I live here because life is safer at the top.

Another beautiful thing about living in the mountains is the darkness and the stars. You can actually see what it’s always like beneath a granite boulder, where no colors but black gather.

On a dark night in Tahoe, we can sink into a luxurious pit of rich oil, like the lake depths, and sleep the peaceful sleep of one patiently waiting to ski deep powder. Sleep, with the earth and sky, little ant and the long vanished sierra primrose, common wintergreen, as still as a rainbow trout in a dwindling current. We share our deep, dark home with coyotes, bears and carcasses. No matter what the jet stream brings, or doesn’t bring, we savor every little bit of it. This is our home. We are mountain people.

If I could even see a star it would give direction I don’t need. If I hear a sound I know the source. If there is no sound I hear the vast peace and solitude of living near the top of the mountains. At night they watch over me with their eyes of coal.

Between moons come and gone the sun has not even a sliver of a pillow to rest his head. Jupiter and Venus spin away and the forest closes its thick black curtain of treetops on the sky. The mountains are filled with invisible secrets. The only place to see colors is in our sleep, if we are close enough to nature to dream beautiful dreams. It is a thrill to live when all light has died and the night becomes the bright hope of things impossible. Space is crushed into a dot, yet expands into infinity at the same time, as dark as your first hole in one is bright.

Yes, living in the thin mountain air can be good for your golf game too. If you overshoot the green you can just say, “Well, I was really supposed to be skiing today, but there’s no snow”.

Did you see Bode Miller and Marco Sullivan skiing at Beaver Creek last week? Bode had one of the most spectacular crashes I have ever seen. He is OK, and was able to ski down on is own. At least Beaver Creek has snow. Time for a road trip. Tourism is down and the economy is hitting us hard. No sense complaining about things we have no control over. Might as well make the best of it. Colorado here I come, for champagne powder and coke and rum.

On Squaw Peak a little dusting of snow is creeping around the rocks in wind increasing, coiling slowly like a white shawl around a widow’s head and shoulders. Ghostly wagons of light, shallow drifting snow, run away from the wailing wind like starving oxen from an old wagon train that almost made it 160 years ago, yoked to dreams abruptly ending far below the river canyons, deep and secret, long and fine. The rivers fall away much too quickly, still searching for all the gold they never found.

Bare bone rock, Tinker’s Knob juts out between the night and day. The sunrise slices Rubicon peak into a shadow almost as big as night, and it stretches from the top of the peak all the way to Mendocino.

Mount Tallac rises high above the petty complaints of squirrels and man. Anxious for white gold, we walk a fine line between hope and greed, hurling our disappointments like rocks from the hands of make believe gods. We want snow. We want a business boom. And all we get is exquisite wonder and overwhelming beauty.

Yeah, life is tough at the top.

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