57° this morning, calm and sunny. It's August 1st. The dead of summer. And yet, there is something different. Maybe it's the light, the slight drop of that glimmering fireball – different – a little lower in the sky, that makes the shadows longer and the light a bit more angular. Perhaps it's simply the shortening of the days…the night has grown by 45 minutes since the solstice. Maybe it's a smell in the air. They say our sense of smell is our most honest sense, in that it tells us what really is happening, even if it's indiscernible to our conscious self. I don't know to be honest. All I know is that it is time to prepare.
I read this book about life on the tundra, about how the plants adapt to the harsh climate at 12,000 feet above sea level, how animals prepare. And it was quite interesting to note that in early August life up here took on a new urgency. The plants change their patterns – they absorb as much as they can and let less out, and they begin to form a "skin" to protect them from the upcoming snows. The animals of the tundra – marmots, pikas, small birds – begin the process of collecting, stocking up for winter. It seems ridiculously early in many ways…yesterday in Boulder my wife and I were sweating buckets as we moved around town in the sweltering heat doing chores. And yet, I feel it.
As a skier, it's important to trust these signs. We too have to prepare. It's easy for me to motivate to go for that morning ride up to Caribou, because if I don't, those skins up to Fowler-Hilliard or the Friends Hut or 10th Mountain will be a lot less enjoyable. If nothing else, it will prevent me from embarrasing myself in the DoJoe or a few of the Cosmic Series races. I don't need to win – I just want to feel good about the effort and be healthy. I'm not a young kid anymore and I can't just rely on ability alone. Work needs to be done. Work in the gym to get the muscles strong. Plyometrics to build power and explosiveness. Stretching and yoga to stay flexible and avoid injury. This is going to be a great ski season as I have the best ski partner in the world, Elaine, to go with every day. I want to enjoy it completely and I don't want to miss a second of it because I wasn't prepared.
A hike in the hills with my wife. A light rain falling. A deep forest with mist rolling in and out of the canyons. The ground, tacky, wet. She muses to me, "I never understand how rivers have this constant flow of water." And she's right. The rivers on the tundra are raging, yet the snowpacks are tiny. The trickle they melt doesn't seem to add up. I'm sure the scientists in the crowd would scoff and call such thoughts ignorant. And yet, it doesn't add up to me. Where does all that water come from? Perhaps it's simply a little bit of magic.
We need to go backpacking, Elaine and I. Backpacking is the way life should be. Simple, on your own two feet, exploring, without the distractions of text messages, Facebook and cell phones. I read recently that every time you chat or send a text message you are actually fueling your body with a craving – your body actually releases chemicals each time you partake in these activities – but that by doing so you make it more difficult to enjoy the more basic things in life – a person's smile, a simple hug, a quiet walk. Modern contraptions, according to the article, speed up the brain to the point where the more basic things stop mattering.
I think I fell into this trap. I can feel it, when I slow down and tap into myself. And honestly I feel like these things were a big reason for some failures I had in the past – relationships, jobs, etc. They were powerfully addictive, instant gratification if you will. And I began to not appreciate the simple things in life.