I could blame cabin fever but I won’t. We got 2 feet of fresh powder last night. I shoveled the driveway and headed into Middlebury to return a video. I spotted a sign- “Ski Sale, fund raiser. 65% off!” I have not skied since 1977. I haven’t come close to skiing since 1977, but I followed the signs and ended up in a conference room at the Marriott. Looked like all new stuff to me. I’d assumed the Ski Sale was used merchandise. No, just a couple of shmucks from Long Island trying to make a buck or two. They gave a percentage of sales to a student scholarship fund which enabled them to suggest a bargain.
Dr. Casey, when in the presence of a salesman in a small room loses her self control and self-esteem. Watching people try to make money makes me feel sorry for them. They’re doing you a great service, after all. Fitting the boot properly takes a professional, offering you a couple of ski tips, an added bonus. “I taught skiing at Killington for twenty seven years” said the salesman. “I make certain that every boot and every ski that I sell is exactly what you need. Being that you are beginning again after all these years, this is crucial. Good equipment can save your life.”
I bought the ski package. With my dog and two bags of groceries in the car, I simply drove the fifteen miles to the mountain and bought an afternoon pass. I was wearing pajama bottoms. I did not have a coat or parka, so I went to the lost and found and asked if I could borrow one. They gave me a mammoth apricot parka made for a lumberjack. I scrounged around the car for socks and hat and gloves, mismatched but clean.
Besides not skiing, I hadn’t done much of anything since 1977, when I decided that I was a singer, an actress, a performance artist, an artsy kind of person. Skiing, more than other pleasant physical pastimes like sex or swimming, was an expensive, inconvenient sport with too many variables. Weather, topography, crowds, driving conditions, seasonal limitations. I was never passionate about skiing and never very good at it, like my Vermonter friends, but for some reason, the sport invaded my subconscious.
I had been dreaming about skiing for quite awhile, and not only when I visited Vermont. In Florida or New York City or Louisiana, in the desert, on the ocean, through the years, a ski dream repeated itself: a beautiful day on a white mountain. Quiet. Snow falling. I am skiing down the hill. I am flying, I am open, I am strong. The cold, the wind, the white. I am free. I’m breathing deep and full and the inside of my body rinses out clean and the inside of my throat opens like it did when I started singing, before I equated singing with smoky dives and shit-hole apartments.
Friends say to me often, “Oh, if I could sing like you do!!” Then they start singing off-key to the radio, having a blast at it, a big laugh over it, life becomes one continuous Kareoke party. “Oh, I’m so terrible!” they groan, delighted, secure in their own talents–as mortgage broker, real estate salesman, landscape architect, hair stylist, baker: with paychecks.
They still have plenty of time left to do their “art” whatever it is. The difference: They do not build a funeral pyre with their lives for the sake of art. They do not flush themselves down the talent toilet, superior in their resolve to be what God intended, no matter the cost. I see them driving their Jeeps with ski-racks through town, rosy cheeked, en route to work or an oil painting class. They aren’t miserable because they can’t sing. They can live without it.
The ski package was $500. For $500 you can buy 100 head shots, or 2 photo shoots, or 3 hours in a recording studio, or pay a pianist and bassist for a three hour gig, or have 10 songs transposed into the correct key, or take 6 voice lessons or 10 acting lessons. You can rent 8 hours of New York rehearsal space, press and package 100 CD’s, publish 1/3rd of your own book, pay 1/4 the cost of joining Equity and Screen Actors Guild, buy plane fare to Los Angeles, one way.
I skied all afternoon. It was a beautiful day, a weekday, not many people. Sunny, new snow weighing heavy on the evergreens, the maples like shining crystal candelabras. No wind.
I was a lousy skier thirty five years ago. Due to major improvements in skis and boots, it’s much easier to be a lousy skier now. With the higher boots and round tipped skis, it is almost impossible to fall down. I was bent up like a downhill racer until somebody on the slope said, “Lady, you don’t have to do that anymore. Just stand up and ski. Turn the skis the way you want to go. ” I stood up and turned the skis where I wanted to go and the skis just went there and I followed.
It was a wonderful, simple day. I was doing something that other people were doing, and we were all doing it for its own sake and it was simply a day of life. Up the hill, down the hill. Up the hill, down the hill. Flying free in whiteness, like a dream. It seemed to soften the sharp edges I’d carved into my youth and middle years. Years of moving from city to city, gig to gig, this rehearsal, that show, another audition, too young for the part, too old for the part. Money, never enough for a frivality, like skiing, but plenty to burn away on head shots, false starts, half-baked dreams, classes and more classes, this city, that idea, those plans. Without a lucky break, it was beginning to look like I was out of luck. So hell, why not buy some skis?
After thirty years, I bought skis and drove up to a mountain and put the skis on. I heaved my aching, reluctant body toward the chair lift. I skied. It was white and silent. I was happy and when I got home I made a cup of hot chocolate instead of coffee.
Will the ski dream continue or has its purpose been fulfilled? Can I guess at it’s meaning? I have to sleep on it. Talk to you tomorrow. -Laurel