She took a long shower today and tried to scrub out the sadness in her heart for the new year.
She cupped her hands, and water puddled and cleansed the remnants of broken love held there. She gently soaped each smooth and swollen scar of pain and hurt. She rinsed wrinkles of hardship and worry under the warm spray. And she used her own tears to wash over the stains of loneliness and longing.
She showered until the water turned cold and her fingers pruned, but her heart still bore indelible marks. As she turned her worn heart in her hands, she traced each divet and pock, and understood that these imperfections were not things to be sad about at all. Each was a treasured memory, a beautiful moment truly felt and lived.
And she was glad for that, for the new year would surely bring more.
She was overjoyed by the good news:
In addition to daily 3 am sleeplessness, nap time existed in all time zones. Especially on vacation.
She had a feeling her ski instructor would also be really happy about that.
She asked how they met, Wayne and Val.
Val said it was love at first sight, quite literally. And Wayne nodded in earnest agreement. He arrived late for a class they happened to be taking together and asked her out to lunch the same day.
That was 16 years ago and many hundreds of miles and thousands of hours had passed in between that moment and now. But they were together now and that is what mattered. They held each other’s hands tightly and smiled broadly.
She sat and listened to their story, which had many heart breaking twists and gut wrenching complications. But, they said again and again, they were together now, deeply happy.
She wanted to believe this was possible for her too, even now and even though some small part of her said that good things like this did not happen to people like her.
So: she dreamed.
She had forgotten
How good it felt:
One with the horse
Riding slowly through
Stands of wintry aspen
Heavy snow and deep quiet
Broken only by labored breath.
She caught the town bus and rode in to check out the village below the ski resort. On the way, she befriended the bus driver and a local, both veterans, and the only other people on the bus. They made uncomfortable weird jokes about guns and death and she smiled tightly, hoping it concealed her disquiet.
When the bus rolled into her stop, she stepped out onto the sidewalk and looked in every direction before striking out down the main road. Actually, she walked down the only road in town — civilization ended about two blocks beyond the central artery that wound through the cluster of buildings. It was a place where you could easily find the end of the sidewalk and pick up a trail into the mountains and that delighted her.
The town itself was an uneven mix of stores – some selling pot paraphernalia and more than a healthy amount of patchouli and Grateful Dead merchandise. The town tattoo shops (who knew such a place could support more than one of these?) were wedged right up next to the local western outfitter stocked with hunting knives and bedazzled cowboy boots. A handful of rough bars were stacked next to the sleeker outdoor sporting goods stores. A few restaurants were open. There was a bank or two and the county courthouse standing solemnly near the town center. The local VFW post advertised a game of Monday night bingo (ID required) and an upcoming wedding reception.
She took mental note of the mottled streaks of militaristic machismo and crunchy granola liberalism that often ran through these kinds of towns. She loved it.
She would come back. But maybe when it wasn’t 10 below and her eyelids weren’t freezing together with every blink. Right now, the better place to be was up in the mountains closer to the sun and not down in the valley.
She ate breakfast and got on the bus headed back to the resort. She settled in near the same two guys, who were clearly just riding the route back and forth on a frosty day and passing the time together with lively tales of guns and death. And maybe it’s because she was in a milk gravy coma, but she didn’t mind their company at all this time.
She ate biscuits and gravy at the counter of the local diner, and it felt like she was eating her childhood.
Right down to the tired waitress armed with a saucy joke for the regulars and a pot of bad coffee. All she was missing was her dad for quiet company, and the toothpick and pack of gum he always brought her at the end of the meal.
She was going to have to skip lunch or ski extra hard today to make up for the calories but it was well worth the memory it jogged for her.
No matter what time zone she came from or traveled to — or lived in, for that matter — seeing 3 am on the clock and not being able to fall back asleep was just the worst. And it happened to her way too often.
She had only skied a few times before: she did not like the feeling of being new at something challenging or of being out of control. Not at work. Not at play.
She spent a few minutes wondering about herself and whether “vacation” meant to let fear clutch at her heart and catch in her throat and to wobble and tumble all over creation. She questioned the wisdom of learning something new at her age. Then she decided she could do this, really she could. She just needed to use a trick from her real life : she talked herself through the scary parts and she went slowly. There was no rush and she remembered that she could use the skis and the hills to control her speed. She stopped thinking about everything except the movement of her body and the sun on the glittering snow.
She was particularly pleased when Billy Kidd watched her happy little turns and joked that she was a future Olympic skier.
And yes: if falling and getting up again and again in dogged determination ever became a competition, she’d surely be a gold medalist. An older one at that.
Her heart ached
From the weight
Of hope held too long.
Her spirit waned and
Her soul, fraught,
Let go of nothing.
She spent the afternoon doing less than nothing. She mostly looked out over the snow covered mountains and valley and watched the light change over them. She emptied her mind and pretended for a very long stretch that she had no existence outside of this moment.
She knew she somehow needed to get herself together again before she went back home. And some of that came in giving herself space and time to float.