Monday, March 19, 2007

body artist

So, I never ever thought I’d say this. Let alone write about it. But, I think I’m officially a snowboarder.

Sure, I've been riding a handful of times, but I mainly just wanted to see what the hype was all about and spend time with my boyfriend. Then something happened. It all started Friday afternoon. Col and I packed our bags and boards into Col’s car—a.k.a. the Tank—bundled Au Lait our kitty comfortably on my lap, and made our usual stop at Uncommon Grounds for some coffee before heading North to my parents’ house in Newport, Vermont.

The next two days were a fluffy blur. The weather forecast said 10-20 inches of snow were coming our way. We woke up Saturday morning to a fresh layer of almost two feet and it was still snowing. After a hearty Vermont-style breakfast, we drove off to Jay Peak. That’s when the Tank really strutted his stuff.

On the way, Col gave me a pep talk, “These are prime conditions. This is going to be your first time on powder.” Then in the lodge: “You will start giggling uncontrollably. It feels like you're floating on air.” Then on the chairlift, “You can fall as much as you want and it won’t even hurt. It will be orgasmic.”

Okay stop.

I had to take his excessive descriptors with a grain of salt. This was only my 6th time snowboarding—ever. I'm not exactly what you'd call sporty. In fact, the very word brings to mind other words and images: fanatic, dowdy, athletic, sweatpants, equipment, practice. Boring! Sporty is not a concept that guides my life decisions. Or is it?

Though I wouldn't classify my look or my mantra as sporty, my physical past might suggest otherwise. I've been a runner, walker, snowshoer, skier, hockey player, gymnast, dancer, and soccer player all at different and intersecting points of my life. I like to see what my body can do. I like to see what it feels like to occupy a different kind of physical space. I like how it feels to be out of breath and to burn and to overcome. I like the accomplishment of finding new limits and exceeding them. But do I have to call that sport? What about something like corporeal explorer. What about body artist?

I got off the lift and started to panic. I couldn't even remember which toe to point forward or how to turn. "Col!" I cried out, "How do I do it?" This moment was not about sport; it was about performance. I had walked out on the stage and forgotten my lines.

Col had no sympathy. "What are you saying?" he yelled back from down the hill. "Of course you remember--Come on!" Slowly I put a toe forward and immediately caught my edge in the deep snow. Pow. "Lean back!" someone from the audience in the chairlift above me yelled down. Here's another word: collaboration.

Something clicked inside of me. It was that moment when, after looking at a blank canvas for days, you see a vision. You know what to do. You feel it all over. No more writer's block. I glided out on the soft powder. I carved into it. Like a powder pony, Col would later say. I hovered and caressed the slope like an upside down trapeze artist. I felt a rush in my skin. I was giggling and I couldn't stop. I was knee-deep in snow. And then I fell. But I didn't care. The powder cushioned me like a big pile of goose down feathers. Orgasmic.

By the end of the weekend, I had climbed the mountain in the swinging gondola, boarded down my first black diamond trail, and caught some air on a kicker we built in my parents' backyard. (Yup, I'm officially a snowboarder).

As I landed my last jump on my feet (in a perfect ten formation, by the way), my mind wandered just for a second to the sporty snowboarders competing this past weekend some 3 hours south at the U.S. Open. I've met some of those guys and gals before. They're not all that different from me, but they've been doing this boarding thing their entire life. I will never be as good as them. I'm just not that sporty. And I'm okay with that. But, even so, I never felt more like a leading lady than I did at that very moment.


Unknown said...

We love it!!!
-brett & elisa

glimmering prize said...

Penelope-Colin pointed me to your blog and your post about snowboarding is a hoot. I've been snowboarding for all of about three times. Sounds like you did great! Keep it up!

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