"I was, in fact, homesick for wildness, and when I found it I knew how intimately - how resonantly - I belonged there. We are charged with this - all of us. For the human spirit has a primal allegiance to wildness, to really live, to snatch the fruit and suck it, to spill the juice." - Jay Griffiths, Wild: an Elemental Journey

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Wild Snowboarding

That's not me.  But it's what I looked like for most of the night.

I was grateful to be invited to go snowboarding with Oldman and a bunch of his friends on Friday night.  It was a group of six dudes, all of whom have been snowboarding for between three and ten seasons now.  One of his friends owns a small bus (yes, a short bus), in which he drove us and our snowboards.

When we got to the mountain and were suiting up, one of the guys asked me, "So how long have you been snowboarding, Melanie?"

"I've never been on a snowboard in my life, actually.  Or a pair of skis.  Or to a ski resort." I answered truthfully.

His eyes widened a bit and his eyebrows raised.  "Well you've probably been on a skateboard at some point, right?  It' just like that."

"Nope.  Never been on a skateboard either."


"Oh," he smiled an oh-god-I-didn't-realize-we-were-bringing-a-death-case-on-this-trip smile.  He lied, "I'm sure you'll be great," and walked away.

As expected, most of the night was filled with falling.  And falling.  And more falling.  I put the snowboard on my feet, tried to stand up, and fell.  After several attempts and a new strategy for standing (start from on all fours), I finally stood!  And then fell again.  The next hour was filled with wobbling and swaying and falling down the bunny hill.  Falling on my butt.  Falling on my hands.  Falling on my hip.  Falling on my knees.  Falling on my face.  And luckily, it was filled with a lot of laughter, too.

After about an hour and a half, I was finally ready to stand up for long enough to actually receive some snowboarding instruction from Oldman.  Ignorantly, I had thought that snowboarding was about standing pretty straight up on the board and just letting it carry you flatly down the hill, kind of like a standing sled.  I had no idea there was so much core-maneuvering, knee-bending, and tipping the board involved.

Oldman kept saying, "Bend your knees!"  Then,  "Tip back a bit until you're riding on the back edge of the board, not just flat."

"But it feels like I'm about to fall when I do that!  That's how you told me to fall safely, too!" I shouted back as I attempted his idea, and promptly fell on my butt.

"Exactly," he shouted as he hopped gracefully and patiently over to me on his board.  I was on my knees, with the board strapped to my feet behind me, panting, preparing to hop up and try again.  He was closer to me now and could speak without shouting.  "You're basically constantly falling.  That's what snowboarding is - finding the perfect balance between your body and the mountain.  But yeah, the motion is the same as falling - it's like you're in a freeze frame of falling the whole way down."

I shook my head and laughed at the ground, watching my breath come out in short bursts of steam in front of me.  "There's a metaphor in that," I said.

"Yeah yeah, you can write your blog later.  Get back up there, lady."

So snowboarding had an unexpected lesson in it.  You're basically constantly falling.  Unlike my ignorant imaginings, snowboarding is not a passive sport in which one stands on the board and shouts "Whee!" as they glide easily down the hill.  Even the professional, fancy-pants snowboarders are simply practicing the art of falling gracefully down the hill on the edge of their boards.

My life has felt the same way.  Every time I try to stand straight up, knees locked, looking proudly around and surveying my masterfully-planned existence, I fall.  And the falls hurt more from that far up.  Conversely, if I simply admit defeat and squat too far down, or allow myself to lose what I know is a healthy balance and flail madly around, grasping onto air - I still fall.

I guess the trick is admitting that, really, we're all just constantly falling.  The important part is to do it gracefully, and remember to laugh at yourself when you find your face flat on the snow - again.

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