As an anxious adventurer, I have to play tricks with my nervous system, use shortcuts to get down mogul runs free of halting fright.
Recently, riding up the Beavers lift at Arapahoe Basin, I confessed to my unflappable ski buddy Carl just how nervous I had been, how downright shaky, on a run we had just finished. He was surprised when I reminded him how anxious I felt on the slopes. You don’t seem scared. Just very determined. A typically kind response.
When I ski down to Carl and exclaim, Beautiful! I am not just catching my breath. I say beautiful because acknowledging beauty burns off my crackle of anxiety and turns down my self-criticism.
When I say beautiful, I mean that I’m scared out of my mind, but I can calm myself by looking at the trees, at the sky. I say it knowing that if I face my torso downhill and plant my left pole firmly, my legs will have to swing my skis around into a turn.
I say beautiful, feeling the semi-wilderness around me and the eternal blue above, knowing that the mountain and I are connected.
Beauty is why I ski, why I ride my bike in the mountains, why I want to be in this messed up world. Hearts break every day. Wars rage. The human family appears beyond dysfunctional, downright broken.
And as part of this world, far too often, I forget beauty, forget generosity and grace. I fret about the busted pipe in our cabin. Sheltered and warm, I worry about the weather. I look at the news, and look away again. Then, out of nowhere, magic happens.
Last night, for the first time in a quarter century of looking out at these woods, the husband said, Bobcat! I have heard him say deer, elk, moose. One memorable morning, he even said bear. But never, until last night, bobcat.
She was graceful and still, square face lined in elegant geometrics, black ear tips twitching. We watched her in the early spring dusk as she sat stock still, perfectly camouflaged in her white and brown coat. After listening intently, she made a quick pounce for a mouse tunneling underneath the snow—a near miss. With the confident serenity of a predator, she watched us for a few minutes, as we watched her. She made a few strides toward us, took a showy turn or two, then stepped gracefully over the hard packed snow into the silent woods. Beautiful.