Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Which Way is Up?

Certain life traumas can leave one feeling disoriented, discombobulated and distrusting of the senses. Take, for example, the experience of wiping out violently on the ski slopes. In a moment when the ski catches an edge in a particularly complicated turn, the human entropy ensues. In a cloud of snow the body begins to tumble uncontrollably until the momentum is diminished enough by the friction of the hill. Arms and legs flail. Hopefully the skis break loose from the boots to avoid twisting the legs and knees unnaturally. Poles are of no use - why hold on to them? End over end the accidental acrobatics continue, stopping in a silent heap. After such a crash you're hesitant to move at all. You take a few moments (or even minutes) to run an internal diagnostic check, wondering if anything is broken. You're thankful for breathing. You're pretty sure you're breathing; but not sure of much else.

Once you're reasonably confident you can move, then comes the decision of which way to move. Directional confidence is shot, so you scan with your eyes for clues that will indicate which way is up. "Is that up?" No, dummy, that's left. "OK, I see a tree. It's pointing up; that helps." At this point you'd rather not sit up. You'd rather just lie there and replay the crash in your mind. How did you take that turn wrong? Did your ski catch on a rock or bush protruding from under the snow? You blame, "This stupid resort should groom their runs better." You'd rather just lie their for a couple of minutes, but if you don't sit up people will ski over and ask if you're alright - heightening the embarrassment. "Are you alright?" a skier asks. "Fine, thank you. Just feeling like a dork!" you yell back.

Sit up, idiot, or more will come.

"Here's one of your skis mister," a polite child offers. "The other one's still up the hill."

"Thank you." Now run along and leave me in peace to look for my ego. It's buried in the snow around here somewhere.

Finally standing up, you face uphill to survey the wide swath of debris left in your wake. This was one for the books. Slowly you go about the business of gathering up your gear. Oh, there's the other pole. Crash ripped off one of my gloves too. I'll never find it. But you know that once you have both skis back on, you'll have to ski down the rest of the way to the lodge in order to rest up there. That sucks, but it's also a blessing. If you had broken something, they'd have sent the rescue skier that pulls the stretcher behind them on the snow. That would have been worse - way worse.

For me, and somewhat for our family as a whole, the news of not entering the Navy as a chaplain can be likened to a skiing wipe out. All decisions are suspect because of being uncertain which way is up. You're stunned, and you need a moment or two to make sure nothing is broken. Oh, I'm confident that we'll find all our gear and ski back down to the lodge. We'll probably even get on another lift in a few minutes. But after a bad crash, the body moves slowly and deliberately.

"Dude! Don't just stay in the snow. Get up! Let's go back to the lodge for coffee," a skiing buddy yells after they stop abruptly next to you, spraying you with snow.

"I'm coming. Give me a second." And it's going to be awfully difficult for you to drink coffee with my pole jammed in your face. DUDE!

1 comment:

Nate King said...

I much prefer snow boarding, a lot less pieces to pick up, but what an excellent analogy. Plus now I want coco.