Thursday, October 27, 2011

Skis on the Wall

They sit high on the wall of the living room like treasures from a great archeological dig. Over 7 feet in length, they are remnants from the beginning of time. At least as time is marked in this world. History compressed into 75 years. As the leaves fall from the trees and the cold begins to descend, I wake this morning to thoughts of those old wooden skis.

Every few years, increasing or decreasing in direct correlation to the constraints of the economy, I tell myself that my skis have outlived their usefulness. Too many turns have dulled their effectiveness.Too much effort for declining results. And, as far as I can tell from both the manufacturer's words, and the murmur on the slopes, the next generation that awaits me will change my ski life forever..

I have seen skis grow longer and then shorter underfoot. I have looked on in amusement as the first of my friends was fitted with 'parabolics' and I wondered what prompted such insanity. I have been instructed to keep my legs as close together as possible, and later to take an athletic stance with feet shoulder width apart to best allow my skis to do what they are meant to do.

I have slipped into my boots from the rear and fought to slide into them from the front. I have been comfortable or in excruciating pain depending on the footwear de jour. I have sweated and cursed and been exhausted without ever having gone on the slopes.

I have spent over 3 decades searching for the magic elixir that would transform me from what I am to what I think I am. My old Henke boots, which ended slightly above my ankles, sit in an equally old pair of skis bound together in perpetual readiness. And many other answers that turned into a graveyard of expectations greet me at our apartment's front entrance. Velcroed together to form a bench, they serve now as reminders of my enduring mediocrity.

This morning I perused an article on the history of the last 75 years of skiing and a projection of what the next 75 years will bring. There was talk of future synergy with the aerospace industry. Sensors to give real time feedback, smart clothes to make adjustments to changing conditions, expansion of the ski underfoot to adapt to variations on the trail, boots that will be substantially lighter, and boots and bindings that will be an integrated system and not individual pieces. (SKI magazine, October 2011)

And then I think back to those skis from the 1930's. Somehow there was someone who flew down the trail effortlessly even though logic would dictate that this was not really possible. But that would not have been me. And somehow, no matter how many advances the industry may make in the coming years, and no matter how long I may continue to try, I don't think there will ever be a synergy between me and my equipment.

For no matter how long or short the ski, how it curves and bends or how it reacts to every thought, no matter how flexible or rigid the boot, how it pushes here or pulls there, the one constant that will never change is me. And as the last 3 decades have taught me, until they can figure out a method by which I can replace myself, no equipment can turn this ugly duckling into a beautiful swan.

1 comment:

gayle and harvey said...

Both hilarious and thoughtful, Robert! I can identify with every word - and age somehow makes me resigned to remaining as that ugly duckling no matter how hard I have tried on the slopes. There is something to be said for sitting, reading and writing by the fireside. We need you to share your experience and your wisdom and put our thoughts into words for us. Thanks, Robert!