Hell beat out of me by a snowboard.
After first ever lesson took to slopes with my boys biting off
more than I could chew. Green trails are easiest, trial by fire.
First of many falls getting off the lift, attendants disgusted.
Started down trying to remember all the instructor instructed.
Very fast, scary fast, could only cut in one direction.
Forced myself to cut back-to-slope and fell hard slamming head,
fell hard slamming head, fell hard, tried again and cut
‘round to face slope building speed, fell hard slamming face,
crawled to side and thought about concussion. Eventually made
a few shaky, stiff armed S-turns strength in legs giving out.
At end of day, Hell beat out of me by a snowboard,
I entered our lakeside vacation cabin – Purgatory.
Not enough snow to ski, sledding offering more punishment,
over-heating stove offering back some of the Hell I’d left on the slope.
Not-too-achy the morning after progressed to
too-stiff-to-move, day long head ache. Disgruntled spouse,
noisy kids, unfriendly friends, feet swollen and itchy.
Benadryl, Celexa, Pinot Noir – nap time, time for a change of scenery.
I suited up and walked into snowy evening
along the drifted beach, blanketed docks, frozen marina.
All was grey or white and even the white was grey.
Milton Avery muted greyscale forms in distance, not sure if
I was seeing open water against the opposite bank or
the opposite bank against distant mountains.
The defining/dis-orienting attribute a diagonal veil, frozen/dynamic,
animated by constant Southerly wind. Westerly was Hell oozing back in
the only color in the sky, dirty yellow orb gone blue and grey.
Out of this a form emerged, moving against
the veil’s diagonalism, cutting North, cutting South, deliberate
powerful S-curves against the airy slope of the wind.
Vulture-like but not a vulture, huge, scruffy, splayed wingtip feathers.
Turning East along the lake outlet it disappeared over conifers
I noticed a prominent, thick, utilitarian, hooked beak and crescent talons.
Hoping to catch another glimpse, I stumped along the beach road,
back to wind, cold face, wanting to return to the cabin but compelled to walk further.
I thought, “I should have my camera”. I thought, “I’m lazy, unmotivated, apathetic”.
My chin jerked upward by a scream and I positively identified a juvenile
as it winged along the shore Southward and landed
a canopy perch just out of clear view.
Then, two others, larger, white headed and tailed burst out
of their screams and into view. Synchronized soaring, followed quickly
by the juvenile, the three an equalized chevron cutting
into the third dimension, exposing the conceit of the veil,
challenging the supremacy of winter, confidently patrolling the lake above
open water the shore ice a temporary inconvenience.
I thought, “Eagles migrate to more temperate winter grounds don’t they?”
“Do they really fish here throughout the year?”
I couldn’t get my mind around that possibility, dulled by ache,
self-doubt – Purgatory. I had come out because I knew
there was something there to transport me, lift me.
For some reason the Eagles hadn’t done it,
my mood remained a cold dull meat sandwiched by frozen earth and shy.
My eyes came into focus on the surface of the lake
just at the point where the stillness of the ice becomes
the stillness of open water becomes a perceptible flow over
a grounded log lying perpendicular to the mouth of the outlet.
The motion of the water, clearer, more real than the drifting veil of snow,
cleared my mind and steeled my attention. A piece of ice
bumped up against and tipped over the log. Others followed
and pulled my gaze downstream where a fleet of emancipated
water-prisons rode ripples into the forest. My face smiled,
my head turned, my eyes followed the bobbing regatta.
I did this over and over.
And then, heaving a sigh, I looked out across
the mouth of the outlet following the line of waiting
ice chunks queued up for deliverance. A line that became a crowd,
a mob, bumping shoulders, rubbing edges, some lifting up out of,
others sinking down into the slushy water. A riot of pushing
and shoving of jockeying for position, a riot
in super slo-mo. Here the veil rippled its hem and dusted
the jam with snow, simultaneously falling down and
swirling forward to the shore melding into the face of the forest.
Heaving a sigh the wind faltered, the veil fell back,
the ice jam relaxed and eased its push shoreward slipping
back creating more elbow room between chunks, it expanded
just enough to allow a few pieces to break away and slip over
the log and join the jostle downstream. And then…
I am lifted, my scalp tingling, my ears pulled back, I am charged
by the sharp, noiseless report of clear-sight, of witnessing,
of deep, deep intimacy, of humor and sorrow.
In the midst of my brief heavenly thrumming a tiny movement
on the surface of the outlet stream caught my eye. There was an
Ouzel perched on a rock its tail flicking excitedly. And against all
that was humanly sensible, the little bird dived into the current,
disappearing in its black possibilities. My mind tried to understand,
to grasp this event, it carved desperately, tried to find its place,
to catch an edge, some control, but the slope was too steep
and I slammed face first into humility.