This holiday weekend, Jorge and I went to Mammoth Mountain for some snowboarding and a change of scenery. The inspiration may have been the incessant repetition of “Let It Go” in my head for the past week, or the overheard forecast of rain and record of snow already lining mountaintops in the West. I was being called to a higher elevation and fortunately, so was he!
Surprisingly, the climb from sea level to 8,000 ft was steady and unnoticeable. It was on the way back down the 395 that we cruised without stepping on the gas and felt the elevation change. Altitude has a funny way of imperceptibly altering our perspective.
To be surrounded by these standing giants for 3 days was like stepping into a new consciousness: I was taking in deep gulps of pure oxygen, sniffling away stale liquids and using my internal heating turbocharger to adapt to the dramatic climate. It was as if the mountains asked me to be more like them: self-reliant, resilient and still.
With the kind of patience that only love can supply, Jorge taught me to snowboard. He is the first one to finally make this dream come true and deserves a big “thank you.” Fortunately, we were blessed with a foot of fresh powder overnight, which made the falls less frustrating and more forgiving on my rear end and wrists. Day 1 was a success! I was already standing and turning, staring up at the summit where the experts were carving deep into impossibly steep slopes, visible only by the trail of white dust swirling behind them. And here I was taking baby steps on Sesame Street.
Winter mountain sports require a lot of trust when you take to them at an older age. Similar to surfing, it is a combination of being comfortable with the elements and having the patience and strength to surrender to inevitable imperfection and failure. Some of these sports take years to advance to an intermediate level and have dire consequences for those who are overeager to let their egos win.
A mountain, like a wave, is humbling and exhilarating. It can at once impress you beyond words and crush you with one false move. On day 2, the mountain reminded me of this. The fresh snow had been packed down by a day of skiers and snowboarders and a dark, chilly night. The turns felt more challenging, slippery and out of control. The first run down Easy Street left me face planted in the snow and feeling more like a concussion-prone linebacker than a sleek snow bunny. So I kicked the mountain back with my board and threw a minor tantrum, while 5 year-olds whizzed by calm as old souls in a thunder storm.
Jorge stuck around for one more run and then struck out to find higher ground- literally and figuratively. I knew it had to be me and the mountain; or more like me, myself and I with a board, enough protective gear for the NFL and no shortage of frozen, packed snow. Come on Mora, it’s just like surfing in very cold water.
Again, I stared up at the swirls of powder on the mountaintop and gathered the strength and stillness to learn to move with the mountain. “Slow and easy. Bend, back edge…smooth…stand and tuck, front edge…smooth…” And just like that, my mind melted away any fear and overeagerness to reveal a simple moving meditation. By noon, I was on the upper gondola going down mixed green/blue trails slow and steady as the surroundings.
Leaving this trip was sweet sorrow, as we both enjoyed the lessons and pace of the mountains. Images of a winter freelancing in a remote ski town with one chocolate and one tan labrador played around in our heads. There would be a small cabin with a fireplace and a pantry full of hearty foods. This picture was grounding, steady and calm, just like the feeling we had inside as the skyline turned a pale purple and the giants around us breathed one last sigh before turning in for the night.
Tadasana is standing strong in the face of infinite possibility.