Sunday, February 28, 2016

Why I keep snowboarding*

*even though I'm not great at it

Let's just clarify something here. I never expect to be great at it.  I'm happy cruising blue runs; the only time I've been on a black diamond was by mistake (I got lost in the fog; it was slightly terrifying). I'm never going to "shred the gnar." I'm not really sure exactly what "gnar" is. I don't look at a mountain that looks frightening to even climb down and think about snowboarding on it.

So why keep doing it? Every year I've had moments, in which icy slopes are usually involved, when I think I should just quit.  Nobody would care; I rarely go to the ski hill with anyone else. I would save money on the ski pass. I could stop checking the snow report.  But somehow I keep trying.  Why? It's sort of complicated.

I started snowboarding because of an ex who was very good at it.  I thought it was something we could do together, but I was wrong, because he was really too good to remember what it was like to be a beginner, and because he soon departed the scene.  I discovered that the alleged steep but short learning curve, the supposed three days to competency, did not apply to me.  It was hard.  I fell a lot.  Getting off lifts was scary.  The bunny hill looked steep. Four year old kids zoomed by me.  I didn't have anyone to go with.  I felt like giving up.

But I kept doing it.  For some reason I didn't want to quit.  It was the same reason I became a firefighter, a job unlikely for a skinny, introverted bookworm like me, and the same reason I taught myself to ride a bike as an adult.  I wanted to open new doors and explore possibilities.  I wanted to try new things.  I didn't want to tell myself, "you can't."

I've been going to the ski hill more this year in an attempt to improve, because while I can get down the mountain, it's still often in a sloppy manner.  Thanks to a snowboard technician, I finally realized my bindings and stance were set up wrong by the aforementioned ex.  My friends say I will do much better on a different type of board entirely.  Regardless, I'm not giving up.  Sometimes you just have to do difficult things, like learning something you aren't good at, or moving on after relationships that were mistakes.  There's usually something really great on the other side.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Right now*

*AKA, I have nothing to write about.

Ah yes, the old "Currently..." or "Lately..." post.  The blogger standby, when he or she hasn't scaled Mt. Everest, saved some babies, or done anything else of note recently.  Let's get to it, shall we?

Reading:  The Fire Outside My Window, by Sandra Millers Younger.  The author is a writer who lived through California's Cedar Fire.  She and her husband barely escaped the flames, but the book isn't only about them; she intertwines her story with that of firefighters, the man who started the fire, and other residents who lost everything.  While I've saved people and their houses from fires, I don't always get to hear their side, so I was really interested in this book.

Listening: Murder mysteries on HLN while I drive to work.  Sometimes I don't get to finish listening, and I have to google to see what happened (wait, what? HE was the murderer?!)

Making:  Chocolate chip cookies (always, unless I eat accidentally eat the chocolate chips); tacos like the ones I had every day in Tucson (corn tortillas, chicken, cheese, lettuce, green salsa, lime).

Watching: Kung Fu Panda 3.  Is it wrong I liked the villain the best?  Not having seen 1 or 2, I was at a loss (why are these pandas doing kung fu? how are a tiger and a panda friends?) but the ten year old I was with attempted to fill me in.  When I asked her why the pandas don't speak Chinese, since they allegedly live in China, she said it was because they were animals.  She's pretty smart, so I went with it.

Exercise:  The gym (ugh), trail running, snowboarding.  Looking forward to hiking again.

Planning:  Starting a book club. Thinking about going back to Iceland.  This time a friend wants to go.  Wondering what it would be like traveling with someone I know, after so many years of going solo or with strangers.

Last purchase:  The Scratch-n-Snooze Cat Tree.  The two cats that rule this house highly recommend it.

Anyone else doing anything interesting lately? Hello out there! What's your "Currently"?

Monday, February 15, 2016

Stress and the City

Confession:  I don't do well in cities.  I know a lot of people love them, but surround me with acres of concrete and traffic, and I soon start looking for a way out.  But when work is paying you to go somewhere that is 85 degrees in the middle of winter, it's best not to ask too many questions.

We spent the week sequestered in a conference room for 10 hours a day.  The discussions became heated  at times.  Some key participants neglected to mention in advance that they had booked return tickets for Thursday, leaving some of us missionless on the last day. Without a car, I tagged along with some other people in theirs.  I looked longingly at the hills in the distance, but they were out of reach.

I made the best of it.  We ate at taco buses and hole-in-the-wall places that had incredibly cheap and fresh food.  Not wanting to run with traffic, I exercised in the hotel workout room.  I jumped in the pool.
Taco bus!
85 degrees and a deserted pool
At loose ends the last morning, we visited another crew's base and looked enviously at their shorts and flip flops.  The two guys debated: where to next?  "I want to see some PRETTY SCENERY," I said vaguely, tired of gas stations and freeways.  Resigning myself to being overruled by the presence of a nearby air and space museum, I was silently happy to see a long line outside of it caused by the fortuitous arrival of a tour bus.  We changed gears and headed for a canyon on the edge of town.

The parking lot was full and we didn't have much time, but I almost skipped down the trail.  I was out of the city!  The desert opened up before me.  I wanted to hike all the trails and climb to the top of the mountains.
Desert vista
There wasn't time for that, though; we had to return to the city and fly home.  That hour I spent in the desert canyon made the long meetings and contentious debate fade away.  I felt alive again.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

How's your S.A.?

I don't remember now what set the ramp manager off, but he was soon in the middle of a spirited rant.

J. was a former marine who had strong opinions about things.  An often-repeated story about him was that when he was in charge of the smokejumper base, he made the rookies run the five miles around the airport carrying items they had brought with them for the summer that he deemed unnecessary.  People were a little scared of him.

His diatribe that day was about how oblivious most people were.  Specifically, people in parking lots and how they rarely looked around.  "A serial killer could just grab them!" he declared, shaking his head.

In firefighting we have a concept called "Situational Awareness," usually shortened to S.A.  "Watch your S.A.," people say.  This means being aware of what's going on around you, the big picture as well as the details, the changes on the horizon.  Losing sight of this has contributed to a lot of fireline fatalities.

I see this all the time.  On the first day of a weather class I'm teaching, I ask the students what type of clouds are in the sky.  None of them know.  They didn't notice.  On trails, I walk behind people for a quarter mile before they see me.  Luckily, I wasn't a bear.

Although I'm bombarded by the concept of SA constantly, I still manage to lose it at times.  At the ski hill, I fail to notice a slalom course blocks a run, and then have to wait till I can quickly traverse across it.  On another day it is so foggy I get lost and take a black diamond run by mistake when I meant to do a blue.  In Chile I miss a sign and stand in a long immigration line, only to find that I need to go to another line to pay a fee and then go to the back of the immigration line again.  It happens to everyone.  But I practice.  I eye the beginning skiers and gauge if I can get around them or if I should wait for them to move on.  I look for bear tracks on trails.  I think about what I would do if a slope avalanched, the weather changed, or a mountain lion appeared.

Do any of you do this?  If you're outdoors people, I suspect you do.  How's your S.A.?
A bear was here.