Saturday, October 31, 2009

In too Deep

He’d found the Golden Fleece. Now he just had to get it home. He’d discovered the Holy Grail. But would it just vanish when he brought it out to show family and friends? He’d reach into the bag that held it and find only dust? Before he made it home, there were things he still had to do. Things he still had to prove to himself. Things he still had to discover – live and breathe. Taste and digest and turn into muscle.

Skiing the mountains of B.C. was the metaphor for how he would live out the rest of his life. The way he went about this sojourn was the way he would tackle his next fifty years.

Did he know this? Could he have put that into words? Probably not. But he knew it still. He knew that this trip, this effort was about more than having a good time. He was watching and listening for more than what was going on - below the surface – for the meaning of what was said, not said, done. He had opened up his soul as a canvas for lasting impressions. A new innocence was within him. New eyes, new heart came as accessories along with the new purpose. To serve the Lord. But how? On this trip he was fasting from the food of friends – the influence of what sustained his sense of self – and trying to live only on the watery company of the One who knew his true nature.

The first stop Amos had planned was at an obscure little mountain ski club a day’s drive from Vancouver. He’d found it listed in the directory of ski clubs he’d researched and photocopied at the Library. It was late afternoon by the time he drove the Dodge Dart Fleshmobile up the winding mountain road. On the way up he noticed a driveway into a clearing – like an empty building lot protected from the road’s view by a band of trees. That would be his hotel room for this resort he decided – giving thanks to the Creator for that gift.

There was nothing else up there on that road. No condos, no restaurants, just a few homes here and there along the road. The big sign for the resort looked pretty tired. Needed paint. That was okay. Amos liked the idea of hitting a club off the tourist map as his first stop.

It was off the tourist map alright. The parking lot wasn’t plowed. The chalet was dark. The chairlift was still and empty. Amos pulled the Fleshmobile up and got out. “Well” he said to his quiet companion Jesus “The line ups won’t be too bad.”

He looked around a bit. Trudging through deep snow to get a look at what he’d missed. Considered camping there beside the chalet but it felt too lonely and sad. He didn’t like the feeling that “he was too late – he’d missed his chance”. Was this an omen for the trip ahead?

Back in the Dart, he drove back down to the clearing he’d spotted on the way up. He parked the car close to the snow bank on the road side and dragged the heavy canvas tent out of the trunk. The sun dropped low over Vancouver lying hidden beyond the hills. It took his thoughts to the small life he’d planted, and now uprooted, there. Should he go back? Was he giving up on a new life of promise? Was he giving in? Was going home gonna mean he’d fall back into the rut he left behind?

The tent up, chili heated and spooned down, he was in the sack reading Neitsche when he noticed the light outside. It was like a streetlight. Had to check it out. Pulling on his boots and not bothering with his coat he climbed through the tent door and out into the windless, frigid night. Out over the valley, where the sun had set just hours before, a big full moon was smiling at him. Amos smiled back.

While the sun had a power to pull, the moon repelled and pushed and cooled off the day’s passions. It said let go and keep going. It said there’s more to find in the dark night than the day’s sun can show.

Amos turned and took a few steps to the side of the tent to pee – to mark this moment of letting go. Enjoying the release, the sound of water tunneling down thru snow, steam rising, he looked up over his shoulder to the moon again. His heart stopped as his eyes narrowed and muscles tensed. A large white wolf stood at the edge of the clearing, head high, ears erect, watching him. No sound. No sense of aggression in the air between them. Just each noticing the another.

The pee had stopped flowing. Amos let out a breath that misted the sight line just for a second. He tucked away his dick to free his hands and shifted his right leg to face the wolf but in that instant - the wolf was gone.

Had it been there at all? Amos doubted it. And he knew it had been too. He stood there til the cold made him shiver and move for shelter. Before retreating into the tent again, he grabbed the lantern and walked over to where the wolf had stood. There were no tracks in the snow. Just as he’d suspected.

If he’d seen what he’d seen – it was spirit that he’d met. Was it just a reflection of his imagination? A projection of the lone wolf persona he was playing? Whether it came from somewhere deep within or somewhere beyond - like the moon - it was telling him that he was on the right path – and to keep going.

He’d heard a lot about Red Mountain – home of Nancy Green. Skiers at Whistler had told tall chairlift tales about the powder snow. Down on the border next to Idaho, sat the railway-mining town of Trail B.C. Amos headed south for Trail.

On the way was Kelowna. Big White Mountain was a disappointment. He spent two nights in a cheap motel. It left a sour taste – wasting away his stash of funds waiting out heavy snows and high winds watching crap TV. He was betraying his mission.

Peter had given him a novel and an address of an old girlfriend living in Kelowna. He’d made Amos promise to deliver it. The novel was about sexual freedom and discovery – a semi-spiritual, semi-porn, pop literary story. Amos called Sue up right away when he arrived in town. She gave him directions to find her place in a suburban outskirt townhouse. Sue was friendly but not exactly warm. Attractive for sure, Amos noticed, but she was world weary. Life had tired her out it seemed. For a young woman she lacked any true curiosity. Her life held no mystery. As if it’d all been laid out from here to the end and she just had to keep the car on the road. Neither was she curious about this stranger who had pulled up beside her. They chatted over a beer. It was her birthday and she invited Amos to a bar that night to celebrate with her friends.

He’d found the cheapest motel he could and showered and put on his best plaid shirt but somehow couldn’t find the party spirit to get out the door. He knew that in some mystical way he’d been delivered to that place on that day as a birthday present. He knew that the stars, or Peter at least, had set him up for some free love. He told himself he was crazy to pass up such a fantasy opportunity. The voice that tried to pry him loose and out the door was hollow and distant. He’d responded to it a million times before and it had always left him empty and alone in the end. He’d rather be by himself than betray himself again.

So he spent a night and a day receiving kicks from that old demon but refusing to budge. His mind filled with fantasies of what might have been. He got a pizza from the joint next door. Chatted with the bored pizza chef. The storm was keeping business slow. Watched some old movies on the cable TV. Tried reading but he was too angry. Amos was angry for being too timid to dive into a sexual adventure and angry because it wasn’t like he was being pure anyways – eating junk food and watching junk TV and spending precious time and cash wasting away in a room like a million other motel rooms.

Refusing to kill a third day in the motel room he checked out early the next morning and drove through the blizzard – that showed no signs of letting up - to the Big White Resort and bought a lift ticket.

It was literally a white-out – Big White all right – he could barely make out the ends of his skiis and from what he could see, which wasn’t much, the hills didn’t hold the kind of challenges he was looking for. It had nothing to teach him.

He left the Resort and got on the highway at dusk. It was still snowing hard but the plows had pushed the worst of it off the roads. He found the highway south and headed for the famed Red Mountain down along the edge of Canada.

This road hadn’t seen a plow in while and the snow was getting to be - what you might call - deep. Amos pulled the Dart up behind a transport truck stopped at the road’s side. He found the driver putting chains on his eighteen wheels. “The road ahead’s deserted. There’s nothing between here and Trail. It’s a mountain pass so it’s tricky goin. If you take it – don’t make any mistakes son. Me - I’m turning back.”

For some reason, Amos figured he could make it. Turning back didn’t seem like an option. There was nowhere level enough to camp and he wasn’t going to waste another $50 on a motel. So - into the night and snow he drove with two white-knuckled fists on the wheel. He didn’t even play tunes on his stereo – afraid of any distraction. Corner after corner, up one long steep climb, and down the next, fishtailing at times but too scared to stop – going slow but not slow enough to get stuck. Just fast enough to maintain momentum and control – if that’s what you could call it. Down another long black stretch, not knowing where the next bend would come, not knowing what obstacle around it might send him into a spin. Up the next pass he plowed on.

The road went on and on for hour after hour. The fuel gage was now hovering just above empty and every time he glanced at it, his grip on the wheel tightened again. Amos found that he was singing a hymn from his childhood. When he realized that, he also realized that the snow had finally let up. Just as he was beginning to compose his thanks into words, around the next corner, that larger than life – still almost full moon greeted him. It washed the dark road in a sparkling, other-worldly light. It felt like he had crossed over into another realm. He wound the window down and let the crisp cold air fill the car - clearing out the heavy air of the fear he’d been breathing.

The car was floating Amos over clouds as he cruised along through the night - his hands now tapping that hymn out on the steering wheel. Praising his Maker and his trip’s Mate. In such good company Amos at the same time realized suddenly how lonely he was. He was wishing he had someone to share such a special moment with. A moment like this is meant to be shared he thought. His heart reached out into the future for the one he’d find to share it with. One day he’d tell his love the story of this night and how he had thought of her then.

As enchanted as the mountain drive had become, Amos was still hugely relieved to see the sign that read “Trail 10 miles”. The gas gauge was sunk below E and he knew he was cruising on fumes. Coming into the outskirts of town, he passed the sign for the Red Mountain Resort. Figuring that was why he was there, he pushed his luck further still and cut off the main road onto the sideroad and wound his way up to the Resort’s parking lot. He could coast back down the mountain to a gas station tomorrow he reasoned. Tomorrow he’d deal with such a small problem. Today angel’s wings had carried him here and he knew they’d take him all the way to a safe landing now.

He parked his trusty steed in a far corner of the Resort’s dark lot, climbed out and stretched hands to the sky, arching back to take in a skyfull of lucky stars – the Milky Way like a thick band he’d followed here full of promise and high hopes. Amos tossed the heavy canvas tent over an eight foot snow bank as if it was his sleeping bag. Crawling up over the bank and down into the woods with the stove and his pack, he set up the tent in the clearing he just knew would be there. Cooked up some soup and settled down – wondering just how laid back the management of Red Mountain Resort might be? After surviving the threats the mountain trail had posed that night, any fears about human authorities seemed somehow not worth the worry. So he hunkered in and slept the night through like a bear down for the winter.

Next morning, Amos awoke to the sound of cars crunching through deep snow pulling into the parking lot. He climbed out into a sparkling sunlit winter wonderland to pee into the thigh deep snow. Hidden from sight behind the tall snow bank, Amos cooked a quick breakfast of oatmeal and raisins and apples chunks washed down with mint tea. Over long johns and a wool layer, he pulled on his Toronto Hydro issued (donated by a friend’s sister who worked there) baggy beige coveralls – his favoured ski apparel.

With a toothbrush hanging from his mouth like a cigar, he crawled over the snowbank and into society. The look on the coiffed middle-aged guy’s face as he stopped in his tracks beside his Jaguar had a kind of “do I have to share this mountain with a street person?” shock in it that made Amos’ day.

Amos smiled and waved at him – all bright and chipper like. The Jaguar owner turned, shouldered his skiis on his ski suit – together worth more than Amos’ car - and headed for the chalet. His wife closed her mouth and followed. Amos laughed out loud. He couldn’t have been happier if he’d been a two year old making art with the pungent brown stuff he’d just produced.

He bought a lift ticket at the outdoor booth and went directly to the chairlift. His plan, developed from weeks of practice at Whistler, was to stay completely out of the chalet, or any indoor spaces, as much as possible. His body had adapted to the cold now and he didn’t want to throw off his internal thermostat by adjusting and re-adjusting to indoors/outdoors temperatures.

He shared the first chairlift of the day with a guy whose beard and hair was even longer than his own. They traded stories on the way up. This character’d been skiing Red Mountain for a decade. He told Amos he’d left Ontario in his tracks. Amos thought “here is a man truly dedicated to a lifestyle.” He’d taken Amos’ dream, and made it into a life.

When he heard Amos’ story, he said “You gotta come with me when we get to the top man. The real powder’s off the back of the mountain in the powder fields.”
“Yeah, right on man, that’s what I’m here for.” agreed Amos.
“Wahoooo!” the wildman let holler go out across the still mountainside.
“Yeeee-a-ow!” Amos responded in kind, truly excited by this connection the mountain gods had arranged.

At the top, the hairy local took right off skating into the woods like a big cat after prey. Amos could barely keep up. There was no trail – just what the Wildman’d left in his wake. He pushed himself through the deep snow and branches and was panting heavy when he caught up with the big cat standing beyond the trees grinning back at Amos.

Approaching, puffing, Amos saw they were standing on a four foot ledge just above a field of pure white powder. The sun on the snow was blinding bright. The steep slope fell down the mountain for maybe a hundred yards before a boundary of trees stretched completely across the view down. Without a word except for a “WHOOOOOHAAAAAAH” the Wildman was airborne. Expertly plunging into the powder below, he carved one, two, three wide arcs through the virgin’s bed before disappearing into the trees.

Amos was alone. He knew he’d never tackled a hill like this before. He was in way over his head – whaaaaaayyy over his head.

For some reason, Amos figured he could make it. Turning back didn’t seem like an option. He’d been skiing the Rockies for a couple of months now and had taken on some pretty wicked slopes. He’d had a bit of experience in deeper snow - not this deep - but THIS is what he’d come there for.

And so, with a “WHOOUUOOOEEEE” to drown out the whispers of fear - he jumped. To his amazement, he landed soft and immediately sat back on his skiis carving one, two, three perfect turns through the snow performing the turns just like he’d read about in the magazines. “This must be what flying is like for birds” thought Amos, “the wind offering just enough resistance to lift and turn their weight as they simply shift their wingtips.”

Then, the forest came at him like a wall of reality about to wake him from his wonder. He was moving way too fast to stop now. Straightening out his skis, he plunged in like a needle into a haystack.

If you asked Amos how he made it through that twenty yards of forest, he couldn’t tell you. The best explanation he could come up with later was that he was killed instantly - but God sent him back into the forest just to see what would happen next.

He shot out the other side like a human cannonball. Except he wasn’t in a ball. He was more like a wildly thrashing windmill careening off its post. The landing was mercifully soft. The cold, deep, goose down received his tumbling limbs and smothered his velocity with its gentle white resistance.

It took long, long minutes before his mind caught up with him and he swallowed his good fortune . When the wind returned to Amos’ lungs and the puzzled expression finally left his face, he lay there still a bit more - thanking the Maker for what seemed like an appropriately humbled time.

Then, the trusty, sombered knight began the task of hunting and slowly gathering his gear, and his courage, together again. There was no sign of the Wildman – although Amos thought he’d heard a long hysterical hyena laugh as he’d flown through the air. It took him easily an hour to find his scattered skiis and poles and goggles, and then maybe another fifteen minutes to put his nerve back in place. After all, he still had a lot of mountain to ski before he’d make the bottom. But make it he did - eventually. After several more tumbles and a long hike at the bottom back around the mountain to the chalet.

He skied the groomed trails the rest of that day. Slept like a rock. A very happy rock through the long quiet winter’s night. Somewhere in the night, in a dream that told him he’d never be this way again. That he was working with more than luck. He found the resolve to try the back of the mountain – just one more time - again.

This time, he found a trail cut by other crazy types, and followed it for a long, long time through the woods. Just when he was ready to turn back and forget the whole thing, he the woods ended and he came out to stand at the top of cliff with a single narrow chute. It wasn’t a hill. It was a chute on just enough of a slope to hold snow. Bare rock shouldered either side. It was maybe ten feet wide, really, really steep and ran straight down in a really, really long – there was no other word for it - chute. There was no other way down. Amos made an oath right then, that if he survived, he would never again tempt the gods by looking for more mountain than he could handle.

He jumped, hopping his way down that chute – from ski edge to edge to edge to edge, left, right, left, right, there was no where to stop and it was either keep hopping or tumble all the way down risking crashing into the unforgiving rocks on either side.

On sight of the bottom, Amos went into a tuck, turned his skiis straight and sped past the rocks in a blur, thighs on fire, until the deep powder at the bottom slowed him and quenched the fire with the wonder of his heart still pumping life to his eyes instead of the black oblivion he deserved.

At the bottom, Amos and broke his discipline and headed into the chalet for a whisky. He’d just done something impossible. He should have been broken in two by the attempt but instead he’d been blessed with strength and skill beyond his measure to make it through the test – whole – somehow.


The turns in the snow these past few days had carried him to a new place. Fears were simply food, like pleasure, to be tasted, digested, and dropped off along the way. Each day brings turns only to those who choose to travel on beyond the circles already known.

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