Firsts and Lasts, Never Haves and Why Nots

A Few Firsts

After all these years in Boston, we finally made it to a “First Night” celebration. V-v-v-viewed ice sculptures in the f-f-f-freezing cold. It was gorgeous and we did it. (We also found a really nice sparkling blanc de blancs from Alsace for a whopping $13.00. We love Bauer Wines!) We had noodles to make the “smooth transition” to a new year in accordance with Japanese tradition.

The First Night adventure was a “first” for me at an age when new experiences are harder to come by. We wouldn’t have discovered the Willm sparkling wine bargain, had we not ventured out. Another recent first was my first roast capon. Wonderful bird, wonderful soup, and one of those “why did I wait so long?” kind of experiences.

I wrote a piece for a new client, Carrie and Danielle, called New Year’s Eve Traditions - Old & New.  In that piece, I shared some traditional foods and rituals from around the world.

  • Do you know who eats pickled herring on New Year’s Eve?
  • Who wears clothes with circular patterns and why?
  • Why would you see a suitcase outside or old clothes flying out a window on New Year’s Eve?
  • If you did, where would you be?

Carrie and Danielle is a place to find inspiration, laughs, gasps, and reflection. I hope you’ll enjoy the site and my NYE Traditions piece. In it, I share my once-private ritual of paper burning. You’ll have to read the piece to see if you like it, I’m not telling all here.

As my birthday comes ‘round this time of year - it always causes an extra dose of reflection on firsts, lasts, never haves and why nots. I came across the story of my first experience skiing out West which I wrote up to share with my father-in-law just after his cancer was diagnosed. Reading it again, I thought it might be good to share now while we are all full of resolve to live life more fully. My intent was not to minimize the diagnosis, but only to share one small example of strength and abilities we may not know we have.

What I learned in Jackson Hole

I learned to ski as an adult. Thrilled, I bought my own skis and tried to go as often as possible. Friends who were more experienced skiers kept telling me to go West. The skiing here on the East coast is so different, inferior. Once you experience real powder, they said, you’ll never be satisfied with the icy, so-called “packed powder” here. Besides, they said, real snow is easier for beginning skiers.

My chance came in a flier in a credit card bill. You know, those package deals offering flight and accommodations on the cheap? Jackson Hole, Wyoming – one of those ski destinations my skiing friends were talking about. So, for short money I took the 3 days, two nights ski trip. Real skiing! Real powder! Off I went!

Jackson Hole is a gorgeous little town. Done up to look authentic, as if the old-timers still lived there, but with art galleries and nice restaurants. I was so excited to try my new skiing skills out on real powder. I couldn’t wait, ready to ski on real snow.

Day One
It was cloudy and cold, but we headed to the lift. I was shocked at how slow the lift was. Compared to the lifts back home, this one seemed to take forever. Hmm. So far, this Western ski experience did not impress me. We finally got to the top and I was off. Or down. It seemed I’d forgotten more than I expected from the last ski season.

I skied about twenty or thirty feet and was down again. The backs of my skis were buried in so much snow. I was exhausted just from digging them out. Another twenty or thirty feet. Down again. Digging and digging to free my skis of all this “wonderful” powder. How had I forgotten how to ski in one summer? It really must be true that it’s different to ski on true powder. Maybe I just needed to distribute my weight differently.

On it went. Twenty feet of bliss, ten minutes of digging myself out. Eventually, I was able to adjust and could ski further and further before falling down. One thing I did notice was the lack of crowds. I practically had the mountain to myself. It was great not to worry about running over little kids who didn’t know I couldn’t really stop that well.

Sweaty, tired, I saw a lodge, part of the way down. Time for a break! This was great, even though I’d forgotten so much from just last winter; I was starting to get the hang of it again. The mountain was not crowded. Happy girl.

Day Two

I discovered the reason for the clouds (and the discount): a blizzard was moving in. It was so cold they closed the lifts due to frostbite hazard. My tears froze on my eyelashes walking two blocks to breakfast (remember the package deal - no food in my motel.) Next to me at the breakfast café was a famous Iditarod athlete in training. Everyone was talking about the storm and the cold, locals and tourists alike. The mountain pass to Grand Targhee was closed by snow. We had a day to shop for warmer clothes and boots. Extra socks. Very important.

Day Three

It was a colder day, but clear. Conditions improved and the lifts were opened. We arrived at the parking lot, to take the same lift.

When I looked up, I nearly fell over. Literally. Just to look to the top of the mountain, I had to bend back so far, I nearly fell over. I had to remind myself again and again that I had actually skied this mountain the day before. I couldn’t believe it was true, but I knew I had done it.

I stood there at the base of the mountain, barely able to move. Could I get on that lift again? Even with the knowledge that I had done it, I could barely make myself get on that lift again.

My epiphany

I am certain that had it been a clear day, that first day; had I seen that massive mountain, I never would have gotten on that lift. I also figured out that the lift was not slow, it was that the mountain was that high. I learned that Jackson Hole has the steepest vertical drop in the US. The summit is at 10,450. Yet, on day one, without the knowledge of the challenge before me, I was able to do something that my rational mind would never have imagined I could. Facing the mountain on day three, I realized I had skiied it the first day. I could do it that day.

I got on the lift, with no small amount of fear, had a great day, skied better and even extended my trip to go ski at Grand Targhee. (Another amazing day, complete with recitation by a cowboy poet driving our bus!)

Never haves and why nots

We don’t know what will happen, life takes some horrible turns. But living life in fear or under the illusion that we can control any of these things at all is not living. For those of us in a reflective place, I have some advice. If you're in the mood for resolutions, some tips.

Don’t let fear get in the way of those “never haves". Find ways to challenge yourself even if the dream adventure is out of reach. Challenge yourself in a small, private way. Whether it’s skiing a steep mountain or a frigid midnight New Year’s Eve adventure - tackling our “never haves” with a “why not” attitude is one resolution to consider.

It could be a thing you never told someone. A hurt you’ve carried - why not let go? Maybe it’s time to face it? Read my NYE rituals piece and see if there’s not something in it for you. Challenge yourself to one attainable goal this year, hope for something you dare not hope for, let go of something you don’t need to carry.

Further food for thought: