What worries a skier about the opening photograph?
Yesterday the introverted thinker and I went water skiing. On Mount Baker. It rained the whole time. Cold! And the introverted thinker’s knee hurt. We bagged it once I had ice puddles in my ski boots and could squeeze a stream out of my ski gloves.
On the very first lift ride, I realized that my wrist pocket was unzipped. Cash was still in there but the car key wasn’t. We skied down and I checked each place I’d been. No key. We got back on the lift and watched. There were a lot of small black specks. We discussed how much fun it would be to wait for AAA on the top of the mountain.
We skied down, going very slowly right under the lift.
Whew. After that neither of us whined. We skied until we were soaked. Her knee was being uncooperative and she was skiing warily. I couldn’t wear goggles because then my glasses fogged too much. Neither of us could see much through the rain. We went up a higher lift and then it was heavy wet slushy snowing. Then we really couldn’t see. Both nearly crashed skiing by proprioception, when a dip was invisible. I stopped at a sign and then fell backwards, visual cues just weren’t working for balance. Unhurt.
And what does this have to do with dirt? I started skiing at age 9 on the east coast, in upstate New York. We would go from Johnson City and meet my uncle and cousins at the small Labrador Mountain ski area. It was a family area. The snow was often awful. We skiied on ice, slush and dirt. Patches of dirt would show through and we learned to avoid them and avoid the rocks. The first time I skiied powder in Colorado I was mystified: I didn’t know how to ski it. But slush on top of hardpacked moguls? No problem.
So skiing Baker put me back to my tweens. The conditions were so familiar. My body was so comfortable with really crappy snow. The ungroomed parts had so much water on top that skis practically stopped. If I had been dressed in foul weather gear I could have skied most of the day.
But soaking wet is another matter. We turned in the skis and ate a late lunch. Happily used the car key to get dry clothes. Changed and drove back to Bellingham. We had a fabulous dinner looking out over the bay with a wonderful sunset.
I am at the lake. There are younger people with me. We go to the graveyard. The earth is soft and loose. There are no markers or stones. We do not need them.
“I can feel the people in the earth.” says one of the younger people.
“Me too!” says another.
“Of course.” I say. I name the people under the earth and introduce them. The young people are amazed. I am surprised that they have never felt the dead. I think the cities and concrete and phones and television and computers: all of these must block the signals. But we never allowed electricity here. The phones don’t work. Candles, aladdin lamps, propane stoves and heat with wood in old cabins. Thin shacks where we hear the wind and water, and tents, lying in the embrace of the earth.
We leave but when we come back, the young start to reach down into the soft earth, arms length. “Did they die young?” one asks. “We want to know more.”
“You must be patient.” I say. “Don’t push the dead.”
Later I return a third time to sit quietly alone with the dead. Dark falls, moonless, overcast, no stars. I stand to return to the cabins and my flashlight dies. I know the paths well, but not the path to the graveyard. I tie up my long skirt and kneel. I feel the ground gently. Yes, I can feel the path. I start to crawl slowly, stopping to feel the packed worn earth. I think of wolves and cougars but none have been here for years. It is not cold enough for exposure. It is just dark and slow. The dead are with me and approve.
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