Friday, February 23, 2007

Hard Candy

Funny how bones and muscles have memory, how the things we do become imbedded in our skin. Funny how my fingers fumble over the piano keys and pluck melodies out of thin air, long after my eyes can't recall the notes on the page. In many cases I never saw the music, I suppose. My ears drive that bus. Many songs I can't even name.

Physical impressions haunt our limbs and digits. I thought that, after eight years, I would have forgotten how to ski. But once my shins and calves were corseted in those rigid boots, they remembered. Once my hands were looped through the straps and gripping the handles of the poles, they remembered. I felt the jerk of the lift chair swinging loose before the attendant (a stout, smiling Sherpa in a red wool sweater) even let go, and the bump as the clamp on the metal cord passed over the pulleys on each tower was no more a surprise than the crushing silence that descended as the lift neared the top of the peak. Some things never change.

I found it easier to ski than I ever have before. I didn't devote much time to wondering why, whether advanced fitness or maturity played a part; soon I was flying and the 'how' was forgotten. On the way up the lift I closed my eyes and listened to the rhythmic whisper of skiers on the slope below, and when my turn finally came, all I had to do was imitate that sound. Every bone, muscle, nerve and tendon seemed in tune, and the fear and doubt I expected never bubbled up. In a way it was less exhilarating than I remember without that fear to trigger endorphins, but it was something new and glorious. It was magical, peaceful.

I took about a dozen runs, my favorite being the outside arm, the long and twisty Bonneville — marked with a blue square — that ended on the road Mom and I hiked up two autumns ago, before the snow and skiers. We were looking for another road, the entrance long since bulldozed, that led to the sawmill where she spent a few summers with her family. We found it and hiked quite a ways up the hill, picking up memories and agates.

On the way down the mountain I saw my grandmother Rose in her white Lincoln heading up, most likely on her way to dinner at the lodge. I turned around and followed her up (intending to thank her again for the ski passes she gave me for Christmas) but took a spin on the snowpacked road and wound up facing down the mountain again, so that's the way I went. I decided I'd call her instead.

I have one more pass, and just a short time to use it; the scarce snow in western Wyoming won't stay long this year. I'll gladly sacrifice another weekend of catching up on precious sleep to find that feeling again, but I'm not afraid I'll lose it anymore. There are many ways of remembering, but my favorite is the kind that takes no effort, the kind your body does for you, soaking up life like a sponge. There is matchless joy in having it wrung out again years later and finding it still fresh and fine.

There's one more thing my body remembered, and with no way to prevent it and even a little bit of eagerness for it, because it means that I am still blessed with the ability to do something I have always loved, I just thought of it as the reasonable price I would pay for that afternoon of amazing enjoyment: my thighs ached for three whole days.


Blogger mister anchovy said...

I know what you mean when it comes to music. If I try to squeeze out a song I haven't played for a while, I usually couldn't write out the melody. I might know the key. Sometimes it takes a false start or two, then I've got it, and it pours back. The melody and the fingering patterns are both embedded somewhere, trigger them and you're off to the races.

February 27, 2007 at 3:55 PM  

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