Monday, November 6, 2017

Ain't Wastin' Time No More

How could anyone view
this as a waste of time?
"Skiing is the best way in the world to waste time." That quote is true if Glen Plake, the mohawked skier who set my young mouth agape in ski movies like the Maltese Flamingo, is to be believed, skiing is the best way in the world to waste time. I couldn't directly attribute that quote to him anywhere, but it sounds like something he would say. I read it on Instagram, a fun way to quickly share the things that make us thankful to be alive, all at the cost of increasing the average time spent on the toilet by 20%. (Seriously, if you are waiting for a stall in my office building, I bet jamming the 4G signal would be the best way to get one to open up faster.) The quote was posted by one of the many agents working for the winter rec hype machine, and even though I often question the journalism creds of those in social media, I feel like it should be linked to Plake, someone who I think of as the Hemingway Code Skier: wearing dayglow 90s threads, acting irreverent, sporting a hairdo occasionally under the performance enhancement of Elmer's wood glue and ripping nasty French couloirs on 210cm skis.

One Man's Wasted Time Is Another's Opportunity to Ridicule

The quote itself is pretty universal; it works for anything that gives you pleasure. We all end up as worm food, so aren't our lives really just one continuous search for the best way to "waste" time? For some, scrapbooking is how they burn the remaining minutes they have for themselves, others brew beer during the precious grains of hourglass sand that they call their own, a select and fortunate few of us get to play in the incredible landscape of Utah when we aren't telling people to, "clear their cache and try it again", and amazingly, an unfortunate group of people seem to while their time destroying that precious Utah landscape (for reasons I'll speculate on in future blogs). In all those cases, the common thread is that, for each person partaking in said activity, 10 more are wondering, "Why the hell would you want to do that?!"

With the last out of the World Series last Wednesday, I wrapped up another 6 months of my life "wasted" watching baseball. And before the end of the this month, I will start another 6 month interval of time "wasted" skiing. This blog is really the byproduct of that winter activity; a way for me to channel some of the passion stirred up by skiing into a creative outlet. But I'm talking about more than just face shots, first tracks and filtered photos. In a larger context, I'm talking about skiing as a means to access the wild, both internally and externally. As writer and environmentalist Jack Turner said:
...what has contributed most to our love of wild places, animals, plants -- and even, perhaps, to our love of wild nature, our sense of citizenship-- is the art, literature, myth and lore of nature.
--Jack Turner, from The Abstract Wild

Mountain Stoke is Not a New Thing

It was worth the extra 8 grams
in my pack for this picture.
I believe that quote was from Turner's book The Abstract Wild; although the quote first appeared to me in a another book, a translation and commentary of an ancient Zen sutra, written by monk and author, John Daido Loori. Earlier in this blog, I made a somewhat sneering comment about the "winter rec hype machine". As a perpetual skeptic, I tend to have a bit of distaste for anyone who is way too interested in getting me excited about something. Yes, my Instagram feed is dominated by skiing... and hot women... and hot women skiing, but I do get sick of reading how "stoked" I should be, that this winter will be "epic" and that I'll never grow old as a "child of winter." Cliche's aside, creating poetic and passionate art around skiing is not a new development that burst from the loins of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. It existed back when I watched those ski movies by Warren Miller and Greg Stumpf. Stoke, for me, started with Miller's Steep and Deep. And, as I realized when reading Loori's The Way of Mountains and Rivers, it existed in the 13th century teachings of Zen Master Eihei Dogen.

Dogen used mountains, not as a metaphor for enlightenment, but part of enlightenment; actual actors in the process of our existence. And teaching that connection to nature, he raises some truly spiritual themes:
Although it is generally said that mountains belong to the countryside, actually, they belong to those who love them. When the mountains love their master, the wise and virtuous inevitably enter the mountains. When sages and wise ones live in the mountains, the mountains belong to them, trees and rocks flourish and abound, birds and beasts take on a mystical excellence. This is because the sages and wise ones have touched them with their virtue. We should realize that the mountains actually delight in the presence of wise ones and sages.
--Dogen, Rivers and Mountains Sutra
I sincerely hope I fall into the category of the "wise ones and sages".

Does Anyone Want to Read What I Have to Say?

Here's my pretentious writer shot.
Looking towards another season "wasted" skiing, I'm rebooting another waste of my time-- writing about skiing. Writing essays on anything in this age of 120 character aphorisms seems like pursuing a degree in Latin, but I'm going to proceed with my prose anyway. My last blog post was in March, and it was one of only a few that I wrote all of last season. Over the last 9 months, I've collected quite a few notes and photos from both adventurous and mundane experiences alike. Some of those experiences were documented on Instagram, but I want to do more with them. I want to tell a story, convey a spirit, relate a value and maybe (get ready to digest some hubris) make a difference. The irony here is that "wasting time" is something my wife will tell you is akin to my kryptonite. I calculate, plan, allocate and organize even the most impulsive and euphoric events. And finding time to "waste" can be hard when there is a lot on which I want to waste time. But I do truly believe the mountains, and all the wonders of nature belong to those of us who love them, and I want to continue writing about them.

I asked a good friend of mine, a talented and published author the very question posed in the header above this section. His answer was pretty prophetic, "You just can't care about that." So I'm going to not care and write. If you choose to follow me, I'll arc from the ephemeral to the concrete-- part sutra, part trail beta, part social activism. Yet, it's all done with the humility that I can't do justice to the real thing.
Clever talk--how can it compare
to the sounds of the river valley,
the form of the mountain?
--Loori, from The Way of Mountains and Rivers

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