It sounds morbid and brutal to admit and say it out loud (or, in this sense, type it)…but it’s one of the only things that is guaranteed in life. And I’m starting to see how healthy and beneficial it can be to acknowledge this simple fact.
Two weeks ago, my grandmother passed away. We all saw it coming: she was 101 years old, and she was so tired. She was ready — as ready as anybody I’ve seen. It was not unexpected, tragic or sudden: my grandma had been suffering, physically and mentally, for many years. In fact, her death should have been a relief. But, somehow, it still felt jarring. Although we were all “ready,” it seems impossible for a death of someone loved to not affect you deeply when it finally comes to be…
Something about such a loss shakes your soul. Makes you question things… “did I tell them I loved them enough? Did I comfort them? Was I there when they needed me? Could I have been there more? Could I have been more present when I was there?” That questioning can wreck you. And it can progress to even deeper questions about your own life and death: “am I living to my fullest potential? If I died tomorrow, would I be satisfied with what I’ve done? Am I loving enough? Eating enough ice cream?” etc. Then, you find yourself with a pint of ice cream in hand, sans bowl, crying, reminiscing, pondering your very existence. Death! It really makes you think.
There is no such thing as a timely death. My grandmother’s death was “right on time,” in a sense, but because of COVID, she had to spend her last few weeks alone. She had to die alone…which seems like the most heartbreaking kind of death possible. The one we all fear the most. And then, a week later, my aunt died…
My aunt’s death was also not necessarily unexpected. Because of her alcohol and drug addictions, we all knew it was only a matter of time. For her, death came early (relatively speaking); she was only in her early 70’s. But it came as the only way out of her life lived in pain. The end of a dark, fragile, and anguished existence. Yes, there were moments of brightness. But her life in general was shaded by an inexpressible dark cloud. So her death was a reprieve, in a way. The saddest part about it was the realization that she never seemed to find true joy in life. It made me contemplate the joy I myself feel, and consider how to bring more of it to my own life. I now know that I find much of that joy in love…
Although my grandma died alone, she at least experienced love and connection, and she died knowing this. My aunt died alone in a different way. She was alone in her hospital room, and I believe she was, unfortunately, also alone in her heart. Did she ever experience love in her life? I’m sure she did. But her deepest love seemed to lie in relieving her pain, and that is such a tragic, unrequited love. COVID is the reason that my aunt had to die truly alone, and the reason why my grandma couldn’t have loved ones by her side. No, I don’t know anyone who has died from COVID-19, but I do know that this feeling and sense of loneliness caused by the virus has permeated all of our lives, in ways we couldn’t have ever imagined. Maybe this pain was unavoidable. Or perhaps it’s all due to the carelessness or greediness of some powerful people (which I do believe is true, to a certain extent). I wish we could go back and change the actions that we took (or did not take) at the onset of the virus…but we can’t. We are where we are, and blame will not help or change that. While inaction can certainly allow our pain to persist (I’m a big proponent of activism) I’m also learning about acceptance and the power that it can carry. And many of those lessons, at least for me, have been learned through death.
We are all going to die. Yup, I’ve been saying it a lot lately. The first time I heard the phrase in a meaningful/approachable way was the first time I listened to Sufjan Stevens’ album, “Carrie and Lowell.” The song titled Fourth of July repeats the phrase many times in a soft and gorgeous melody. I highly recommend this entire album…it makes you think about death and life and love. And the beauty that can be found in the connection of these things. I want to say that life isn’t possible without death, and in a way I know it’s true (think of the life cycles, and all the things that die in order to keep us alive)…but I do know for certain that death is what makes life so meaningful. So, can I claim that a good, full life is only possible because of death? Yeah, I’m gonna go with that. The imminent threat of death is what brings so much light to life. Without perceiving darkness, we would not perceive light. Perhaps the fact that our days are numbered doesn’t necessarily bring joy, but it does remind us to do the things that bring us joy. Knowing we could die tomorrow makes us live in the here and now. It’s what allows us to take risks, to enjoy adrenaline, to find flow. Death is unavoidable, and maybe my words don’t communicate it concisely or accurately, but that simple fact can be incredibly enriching. So I’m trying to remind myself every day: we’re all gonna die.
At the same time that it can be beneficial, though, sometimes I find the idea debilitating. If I and every one I know and love are just going to die, what the hell is the point of anything? Why would I care about eating healthy, getting educated, being kind, if it’s all for naught? WTF is the point. We just randomly ended up here, floating around on this planet, in the middle of a giant endless darkness. Do our lives have meaning, in the grandest scheme of things? I think the short answer is probably no. But, shit…how miraculous is it that things came together as they are now?! We were born. We have answered so many questions.
ONE of those can remain unanswered. Maybe it’s more fun that way anyhow. What is the point in worrying about what the point is? Too much deliberating and questioning really can be crippling. Letting go of the need for answers is just one step on the path to freedom
I don’t think we’re ever going to figure out the “why” to life. But I do think that sometimes you can feel it. In a spring blossom that reminds you of your grandma. In a hot bath on a brutally cold day. You can feel it in your lovers’ eye, in the perfect turn, in a delicious meal enjoyed with true friends. I think people find their answers in the things that language cannot describe. We can’t necessarily talk about it, but we can express it. We can feel it. I heard a great quote on a podcast recently. It was in fact asserted by a scientist: “you know more than you can say.” And realizing that was true felt so lovely. Just because you can’t describe it doesn’t mean you don’t know something. This is difficult for me to admit, coming from a very scientific upbringing…but, scientists know this best: even the certain answers are not without flaws. So I guess the best way to go about life is to keep questioning, but to be okay with the fact that you will never know some answers. Be okay with the unknown, but keep enquiring (and inquiring!) about it. Cause it’s fun to learn! And it is also exquisite to be able to find comfort in the unknown…
To find comfort in death. It sounds nearly impossible, but when you realize how much joy and fulfillment life can bring if death is faced with honest certainty…then, there is a kind of comfort in death. This doesn’t make death a “happy” thing; no, it still tears you apart. But it can bring an elevated perspective to being alive. The acknowledgement of inevitable death can allow a more fulfilling life to evolve.
Shit, though…it does make me incredibly sad to realize all the loss we experience through death. The loss of loved ones, the inescapable loss of life, the loss of “self.” It breaks my heart to imagine conscious existence coming to an end. It’s the same thing that keeps me awake at night — the genuine gratification I find in life. The pleasure of a flowing powder run. The satisfaction of a brimming harmony, a warm hug from mum and dad, the indulgence of a cinnamon bun. I have a difficult time accepting death, really accepting it, because of how much bliss I find in life. Sure, life also sucks. A lot, sometimes. But the delight and joy and love make the awful times tolerable.
I know that this clinging to life will only bring more pain…I do know that my resistance to death is increasing my suffering in life. So, it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about. Meditating on, reading and dreaming about. Writing about! This ongoing skirmish with the idea of death is the only way to understand it. As hard as it is to confront, I think, as with anything else, it is the only way to be at peace with something. But unlike any other concept, I think it’s healthy to constantly remind ourselves that we are going to die.
To live fully is to hold death in your consciousness. I do believe it is one of our greatest teachers — regardless, it’s so challenging to allow death in. To really open up to it. But if we can, I think an enormous burden will be lifted. Huge life lessons can be learned. And, most importantly, we can live our best lives, how we want to live: like tomorrow may never come. Because, for some of us, it won’t. And that’s okay. Heck! We’re all gonna die.
Oh, speaking of death…can I make a TV show recommendation? Midnight Gospel. The end.
A few days ago I drove up Parley’s canyon from Salt Lake City. I could see the mountains dressed in a vibrant blanket of white, but I didn't expect there to be snow on the ground in Park City. After all, it was only October 20th....But as my rental car tires crunched through the frozen layer, I came to the realization that winter is no longer merely a thing I am planning for, but a reality that is at my doorstep.
Regardless of the snow, I initially didn’t really feel winter. Because of my plan to take this winter off and recover fully from my latest knee injury, I have tried to distance myself from the concept of winter altogether. I’ve been unable to understand winter as a “season” for as long as I can remember. It’s always been more like a feeling. Or a theme, an ambition, a spirit. A kind of religion. Like almost everything I do is dedicated to this essence — I chase it and love it desperately but also fear it somehow, and bow at its feet. So attempting to view it simply as a “season” is a very strange adjustment that I’m still trying to conceptualize. And seeing all that snow in Park City was a gentle and early reminder of how difficult it may be to take the winter off. A reminder to consider how I really feel about ski racing.
I took this trip to Utah so that I could go through physical testing and meet with my team physical therapists. The physical testing was my main concern: I’ve been on my own workout program over the last 6 months, and let’s just say I’ve been having more fun than I have had in past summers: more mountain biking, more yoga, more hiking and dancing and art…and less time spent in the gym. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been committed to my knee rehabilitation, but less committed to a regimented strength program and a strict schedule. Which has been amazing. But, needless to say, I was a little nervous about testing. Because if I didn’t pass, then my hopes to return to my skis at the end of November would be crushed. Well, maybe not crushed, but at least reevaluated.
Thankfully, though, I passed. And that’s when I started considering my relationship to snow and winter. Because now that I knew I was cleared to ski, I started to realize and remember how I actually feel about ski racing.
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Winter and ski racing have always come hand in hand for me. I cannot create a distinction between the two. I see snow, and I can’t help but dream of the possibilities on a pair of skis. I feel a chill and I think of an early morning jog, warming up for a day on the mountain. I see dusted peaks and I feel, especially at this time of year, a pang of anxiety, mixed with wonder. I blink and I see myself in a start gate, I hear the beep, I can’t help it.
My relationship with skiing and winter is one of great complexity. It is at once loving and intense; passionate in a way that can be considered unhealthy. I love skiing so much that it scares me — a dangerous love. I am addicted to the feelings: pushing out of the start, flying through a downhill course, crossing a finish line. A minute or two of sheer terror, pure bliss, intense presence. The feeling of resolute emptiness, contentment in an unrealized sense. Like I said…it’s complicated.
Ski racing brings out the best and the worst in me. It makes me do things I’m not terribly proud of. Some examples: hoping for another person to fail, posting selfies, and perpetuating an unsustainable lifestyle. But it also forces me to be present, to be humble, to dig for and show courage I never thought I had and to embrace occasional humiliation. Ski racing has taught me how to fail, how to grow, how to express myself, how to come to terms with the unknown.
(I’m still working on all of this, by the way. It’s a process :) )
The feelings I get at the beginning of the winter season are almost all directly connected to ski racing. Even now, when I know I’m not racing this winter, I get this constant low level angst that just lingers — uninvited but so freaking familiar it’s frighteningly comfortable. My old friend, anxiety, here to stay for at least a few months.
I wonder if my whole life will be lived like this…
Mostly I hope I’ll be able to settle into a calm and easy relationship with winter, but part of me loves this game, this passionate fight, this fire. Yeah, it’s probably not totally healthy, but it makes me feel alive.
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So, as it turns out, sitting this winter out of ski racing is going to be a huge challenge. I already miss the rush, the roller coaster and forced self-discovery. I’ve got a pretty packed schedule all the way through March, which I believe is necessary to keep me calm and the FOMO at bay:
I will likely do my return-to-snow at the end of November after completing a design internship in New Mexico. Then I’ll take off for Europe to meet and free-ski with my team for a few days, fulfill some sponsor obligations, explore with friends and watch Tommy race a bit. When I get home at the beginning of January, I’ll head straight to Eugene for my final (!) undergraduate term at the University of Oregon. That ends around March 20th, which is basically the end of the ski racing season. I’ll hopefully be coming home regularly to ski at Mt. Bachelor on the weekends during winter term, and maybe even do a bit of coaching! It might be an even busier winter than if I were to be ski racing, but I have the feeling I will need that preoccupation….
And I’m actually really looking forward to it. To exploring some other passions in my life, getting strong, and learning how to have a healthy relationship with winter.
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When all is said and done, I know I will miss ski racing dearly. I already do. Hopefully that yearning will help to fuel my passion for skiing, and my hunger will become enjoyable. Or maybe I’ll start down another path that has the capacity to fulfill my desire for more. Who knows? All I know is that, right now, I’m okay with not knowing. Yeah, I already miss skiing in an unsettlingly strong way, but I’ll let that feeling of emptiness inspire me in other ways. Or I’ll carry it into the future, to be filled at a later time. Or to light the way for others.
Ski racing never really filled the emptiness within, per-se, but it at least reminded me: that emptiness can be a good thing. Maybe that search for the unknown, for something to fill that space will never end. And it feels good to acknowledge that; to respect it and let it drive me. It feels good to admit this: damn, I miss skiing.
Valentine's Day... How did I get here?
I'm in the Seychelles with Alice. It's been quite a journey over the last week. One week ago today, during warmup for the third Downhill training run (after the SG race) I crashed (again) and hit my head/hurt my left knee. I was taking a free-ski run on my SG skis after taking a warmup run on the course (which was bally, rutted and generally awful) when it happened. I actually debated whether to take that third warmup run (after a free-ski/drill run and then the one in the course)...normally I don't do more than two warmup runs before a race for multiple reasons: energy conservation, replicating what I do on a training day, etc. But this day was different. I had crashed hard in the World Championships Super-G race two days prior and had some pretty deep bruising, whip-lash, and a few very sore/compromised muscles. So, I wanted to make sure everything was working well before jumping into the Downhill training run that day. I actually felt surprisingly good in warmup and was having a lot of fun free-skiing when it happened.
And, damn did it happen fast. I approached a roller, poised and ready, but seemed to have hit a pile of snow between the two warmup courses. I caught an edge and went flying, face first.
That moment of uncontrollable panic right before you crash is such a peculiar moment. There is an inexplicable beauty, a stillness about it. It almost feels like letting go. You no longer have control and, although you know the outcome likely won't be pretty, you almost understand something in that moment that you never grasp at any other time. I can't tell you accurately what that is now, but it feels like you're suspended in time. A glimpse between input and reaction...A mysterious insight of sorts. A realization of what it means to exist and a simultaneous release of the attachment to that.
And then you hit the ground. I managed to land directly on my face -- probably at a speed around 80 km/hour. So, that was fun. But actually...it was more like nothingness. I don't remember hitting the ground or how my body tumbled or flailed, as I was knocked unconscious for about 30 seconds. As opposed to rag-dolling, I'm pretty sure I hit the ground from a significant height and basically stopped all motion upon initial impact with the snow. I certainly got the wind knocked out of me, but am convinced I took the brunt of the impact with my face; I woke up moaning and extremely disoriented. Waking up from a period of unconsciousness is definitely one of the scariest things I've experienced. Especially when you look down to see blood in the snow. And when you don't know where you are or how you got there... Luckily, our team doctor Jeff was next to me when I came to, and seeing someone you know is incredibly comforting in a moment of complete confusion and disarray. I managed to piece together some of the parts and eventually remembered who I was, where I was, how I got there (at least vaguely), and...that my left knee hurt. It felt like my calf had torn off the bone (thankfully it didn't, at least not completely), and my joint was pounding from a hyperextension impact. That's an interesting moment as well...when you realize you're injured, at least somewhat substantially. It takes a lot of presence and composure to deal gracefully with that moment. I'm not sure I quite accomplished that, but I did become very practical and somber... Wellp, there goes my World Championships. And probably the rest of my season. And, who knows what else?
It's funny to imagine acceptance and despair coming hand in hand. Worry and relief. Fear and contentment. When you know there's nothing you can do to change the situation, you do the only thing you can: hope for the best and count your blessings. Enjoy the ride to the hospital; use the opportunity to take a restless, blissful nap.
The moment before you hit the ground and the moment after you realize you're injured are distinguishable in many ways, but also similar in the sense of surrender. Before impact, there is curiosity and fear, but also hope and stillness. A conscious submission. After crashing there is resolve. Depending on the pain and body sensations there is often curiosity as well: what does this pain mean? What is wrong with me? Will I remember everything later? Will I be able to ski race again? Will I want to....?
The doubt and fear and worry come rushing in, but if you're able to stay present and surrender to the moment, to the pain, there can also be stillness and hope. And every moment thereafter, until the doctor comes to your hospital bed tell you the outcome, is an internal battle between what is and "what ifs."
After hearing about my knee's damage: broken (but non-displaced) tibial plateau, bone bruising on both lateral and medial sides in my joint, strained and torn calf, and potential ligament/cartilage damage (or potentially just an arthritic knee joint), I was somehow relieved. Once you've endured enough injuries, you know when there is something really wrong at the onset of an injury. The first two major injuries in my career (a broken pelvis and, 18 months later, a torn ACL) I was completely clueless: I thought I had minor strains and bruising at the time, but I've learned so much since. I knew this time, right when I came to, that I had done some sort of serious damage to my knee. But to learn that it would probably not need surgery was definitely comforting.
To be honest, though...I was more concerned about my head. I've had quite a few concussions in my time as a ski racer, and I realize how delicate my brain has likely become from all of them. I truly value my intellect (though it may not be superb), and want to maintain at least a somewhat cerebral life of thinking, awareness, critique and amusement until my dying day. I know the trauma I've put my brain through may thwart these intellectual dreams, and I fear that potential greatly. So to take another hard blow to the head really scares and unsettles me.
Since my crash, I've been sleeping a lot. I've been thinking a lot, too... Thinking about my future, about my plans, about what's best for me. I feel like I still haven't tapped into my true potential in skiing, but I also realize that to do so involves taking more risk. So, I am torn. I was starting to feel so good on my skis again, after a terrible beginning to my season. I was feeling hopeful, confident, and...I was having fun! I was truly enjoying skiing again.
It's hard not to think about what could have been. Where things could have gone, had I not injured myself again. But, now it's time to take care of me. Time to be here, now. Focused on healing, thinking things through. There's no point in ruminating over what happened, why it happened. I am working on being grateful for the health and support I have, and gracefully moving through this time of healing. Slowly and deliberately considering my next steps. Regardless of what the future holds, I am at a point in this journey where I have to stay true to myself and take wonderful care of my body and mind.
Margaret Hasley said, " In some circumstances, the refusal to be defeated is a refusal to be educated." So I will take yet another opportunity to learn and grow...to heal these wounds to become my greatest self. I have no regrets. It is time! Onward...
defeat (after my crash in the SG race)
I'm going to have a similar theme to Post #1 where I don't ramble much, I'll just give a short caption to describe each photograph. I'll go in chronological order again and will tell the story behind each photo as my summer/fall progressed....
After backpacking through the Rockies and up to Assiniboine, Tommy and I took off for Whistler, BC, with our camper in tow. We went to visit my old technician, Ales, and did a lot of mountain biking/hiking during our time in Whistler. What a crazy mountain-biking mecca! Wow. The views weren't bad either. The photo above is from a hike we went on during one of the first days we were there. I guess I was melting towards the lake water...
Tommy took this shot of me on one of my 35 mm cameras, on Lomography Slide X-pro film.
BC was so incredibly lush. Above is a secret garden we found. Same film as photo #1.
...And our favorite new toy -- the camper trailer (called a Cricket)! It is soooo much fun to travel with! This photo was taken with Lomography Purple film.
After hanging with Ales in Whistler, Tommy and I took off for Brentwood Bay, BC to visit my grandmother. We spent a few days in the bay, enjoying the ocean views and beautiful sunsets while keeping grandma goldie (that's her nickname) company.
Film: Lomo Slide-X pro 35 mm
After our Canadian road trip we spent a few weeks at home in Oregon before taking off for some skiing in New Zealand. I've been to New Zealand 7 or 8 times and still had yet to hop over to Australia, so we decided to make a stop on our way for 5 days of city-wandering and more ocean time (the ocean is necessary rejuvenation for both Tommy and I). We stayed at an Air BnB near Bondi Beach (5 min walk to the beach), which was a perfect spot for some rest and relaxation.
Above is a B&W 120 film photo I took of Tommy while we did the Bondi to Cogi walk, which I HIGHLY recommend. What a beautiful wander -- full of cliff-sides, nestled beaches, and splendid water-splashing views.
One of the many tiny beaches encountered on the Bondi to Cogi walk.
Tommy, stopping for a rest
And the view of Bondi beach upon our return
A peak down a tiny alley near our Air BnB
Catching a public-transport train to get around Sydney.
A double-exposure taken with Lomography Color 800 ISO 120 film (as are the following photos until stated otherwise)
Wandering down to the Carriageworks Farmer's Market -- a really neat market in the middle of Sydney where we bought some specialty goods (like home-made pickles) and had yummy lunch.
We took a ferry to Manly (the upper peninsula North of Sydney) one day, and the float back in the sunset was incredibly beautiful. The views of the Opera house were lovely as well!
Potentially a triple exposure...?
The aforementioned sunset from the ferry.
After a nice Australian vacation, it was time to get back to business and back on skis. We began our New Zealand ski trip at Coronet peak. I mostly free-skied for the first week I was there, as I wanted to get back to the basics and hadn't skied in 3 months. Joining Tommy and his team was really fun and motivating. It was super interesting to be part of another team and see how they operate. It was also really inspiring to ski some GS with the men's team and be able to watch and try to ski like them...it was definitely beneficial to witness their skills and realize what's possible!
Above is a double-exposure on Lomo color film.
I took a little solo mission one day to ski up at the Remarkables. I've stayed near Queenstown and skied at Coronet so many times, but I've never ventured up the other side of the valley to the Remarkables ski resort. The free-skiing was super fun despite the crowds, and the views from the top were insane!
After about a week at Coronet Peak, we took off for Round Hill. Although Round Hill can be a bit repetitive and boring (not much free-skiing or exploring to do there), the training there is simple and extremely productive. It's fairly mellow, with a bit of a pitch and lots of (semi to extreme) flats to work on technique and tactics. The snow was pretty good while we were there, and I eventually started hopping into some GS gates with the boys. Travis and Steven were down there doing their back-to-snow program, so I also got to join them for a day of Super-G.
A morning sunrise from the base of Round Hill.
Taken with Kodak Portra 400 120 color film (as is the photo below)
Boy with banana and girl
On a day off from skiing, we took off from Lake Tekapo and drove over to Mount Cook. I've never checked out that area before, so it was nice to go on another new adventure! We took a short hike while in the National Park, over bridges, falls, and rivers to get a good view of Mt. Cook in all of it's beauty...
This shot of Tommy was taken with Lomo Redscale 120 film
Apparently this was the spot to take photos, as there were many photographers set up on the river preparing for the sun to set on Mt. Cook...
Just so you get an idea of Redscale vs. regular (Portra 400) color film (on a 120 film camera -- Lubitel 166)...above is in Redscale, below is a similar shot taken with Portra:
Another photo of Tommy crossing a bridge... this is one of my faves :)
Middle of the road, on the drive to Mt. Cook. Another one of my favorite photos from this batch. Actually, one of my all-time favorite film photos I've taken.
I stopped in Wanaka for an evening on my way to the airport to head home. What an awesome little town in the middle of the mountains...I definitely wouldn't mind spending some time living in Wanaka. Above is right at the edge of the lake, near the center of the town, right before the sun went down for the night. Quack.
Upon returning home from New Zealand, I took off for a short coast-trip with my dad and the Cricket. It was fun to have some father-daughter time while trailer camping and chilling, especially because I got super sick when I got back from NZ...
The above shot along with the next few were taken with Lomography Purple 35 mm film.
We stopped at an Oregon Elk refuge on our road-trip to take a gander at these beauts....
Wandered around on some train tracks for a bit...
Of course, I had to jump in the ocean!
The Lomo purple film creates some interesting color dynamics...
And I always love an interesting angle...
...and the classic middle-of-the-highway shot! This is quite the straightaway on a section of the Cascade-Lakes highway in Oregon, where I live :)
running in from the freezing-cold Oregon ocean
And that's it for now! Please comment below if you have any questions or suggestions. I would love to know which photo(s) (#'s) is/are your favorite! Thanks for looking :)
Here will commence the first part in a series of photographs that I have taken over the last few months, accompanied by short captions and stories of my adventures. Please enjoy!
I'll go in chronological order, for the story's sake....
After finishing my term of school this spring, Tommy and I took off with our new camper trailer for a road trip through Canada. Our first stop was in Canmore, Alberta at my family's house. We had been planning on going backpacking up to Mount Assiniboine with Leanne, Dustin, and Lindsay (Winnie) for a few months. After picking them all up from the airport, we made a (lengthy and pricey) stop at MEC (Canada's REI) for gear, and took off the next morning for 5 days in the woods and mountains.
It took two days (16 miles) to hike into the Mt. Assiniboine provincial park to our campsite at Lake Magog. We had reserved a few spots there, but were nervous about the amount of snow, as we approached in June which is normally fairly early. We ended up digging out our campsite pads, but the sun assisted to melt away the excess snow and we mostly enjoyed sun-filled days. The photo above was taken near the Mt. Assiniboine Lodge (which wasn't open yet when arrived). You can take a helicopter up and skip the 16 mile approach (which is actually fairly tedious and uneventful), but the hike in and out were some of the more exciting days we had....
On the first days, we were anticipating the views, the snow, and the uncertainties of what was ahead. Although the approach was uneventful, we were excited for the days of adventure ahead. We crossed over some rivers, and got a few glimpses of mountain peaks between the straight, forest-canopied sections of blindness. I brought a few rolls of Lomography colored films with me, and did a bit of experimenting with them. The photographs numbered 1, 4, and 9 were taken with Lomography Slide X-pro film. The photos numbered 3, 8, 10, 15, and 17 were taken with Lomo Purple film. Shots 5, 6, 7, and 13 were all taken with Lomo Redscale film. The numbers not mentioned were taken on any of the following color films: Kodak Ektar 120, Portra 400 or Lomo Color 400-800. All of the shots from the backpacking trip through Assiniboine were taken on my Lubitel 166 120-film camera.
The very first flowers were beginning to appear while we were wandering....
One of my favorite shots from the trip: Leanne and Dustin atop "the Nub" -- a side hike we did one day as the clouds rolled in...
Tommy, admiring Mount Assiniboine
Some more early bloomers atop a rock on The Nub.
This shot was taken on the Marvel Lake side of Wonder Pass, on our return to the Mt. Shark trailhead, where we parked.
Leaving our campsite at Lake Magog for a day hike up Wonder Pass.
The glory of the Canadian Rockies...it gets me every damn time.
I've been greatly enjoying double exposures of the same scene, from opposing angles
Friends! Enjoying the view...
Another one of my favorites from the trip -- this shot is so surreal and dreamy. It gives me such good memories :)
I love this boy and the things we get to do together.
Same aforementioned boy. Nearing Marvel Lake.
This was taken on the BC side of Assiniboine Pass as we ascended to the Park on Day 2. It was our first great view of Assiniboine, and one I'm sure none of us will forget.
That's it for now! I will be posting more film photos in this series, Pt. 2 soon...so stay tuned for more colors (and some Black and White's, too!). Thanks for looking!
It's always frustrated, intrigued and perplexed me: the selfie. Although the term "selfie" was only recently coined, self-portraiture has been around for thousands of years. I suppose it began with some of the first cave-inscriptions, but became more prominent in the early-Rennaisance era (mid-15th century-ish), when traditional artists such as painters and sculptors began depicting themselves in their work.
It was a new idea (it seems): the artist as the main subject in their own work. But it makes sense, doesn't it? You gain so much control, being your own subject/model. Position yourself exactly as you want, stand up a mirror, and get to work. You don't have to tell a model how to sit, what expression to make, where to put their left hand -- it is all within your control. The artist and model can take breaks simultaneously -- and, when photography came in the mix, self-portraiture became a whole new game. Not only could you use a photograph as the model for a traditional work, the photograph itself also became a work of art. Artists were expressing themselves through sculptures, paintings, and photographs of themselves.
But something funny happens when the work becomes about the artist themself. For one, the artist becomes judged as a subject -- finally seen! The figure behind the brush, the chisel, the camera. But the work is viewed differently, too. It is less about what makes the artist an artist and more about the human behind the art. Somehow, self-portraiture humanizes not only the art, but also the artist. In a way, it is liberating for the artist to be portrayed in their own work. But there is a delicate balance in the form of self-expression...
All of the artists at the beginning of the self-portrait era knew that their portrayals of themselves would be viewed and judged by everyone who saw their work. Access now is much easier and farther reaching than it was then, but the awareness of viewer perception has always been present in self-portraiture...how could it not? Despite the inevitable public judgement though, the self-portrait artist must first look at themself.
There is something about composing a work of oneself that forces the artist to look at themself differently. Regardless of whether you're creating a labour-intensive sculpture or simply snapping a "selfie" on your phone, you are seeing yourself. You may tuck in the double chin or omit the pubic hair, but those changes are conscious and, in the end, you present yourself to the world how you want to be seen. But between the onset of the idea and the final presentation, there is the journey of self-discovery. Are you changing the way you truly appear to meet the demands of your audience? Why, and with what intention? How does that affect your perception of yourself, or of who you think you are? Just because it's a self-portrait doesn't mean it has to be honest...but don't you think that dishonesty affects the artist/presenter in some way?
When I've done self-portraits in a few separate art classes (drawing, printmaking, photography), I have always been tempted to present the person I believe others want to see: scarless, skinny, flawless. But the works always came out much more true, and from this repetitive process I came to see myself in a different light. The girl I imagined myself being is actually quite boring. She hasn't been ran over by another skier or hit a plastic fence going 80 miles per hour. She hasn't laughed much...where are the lines to show that? She is perfect and beautiful and terrifyingly boring. And that's not me.
So maybe this self-portraiture process is a positive thing. Maybe it allows us to understand ourselves better, even improve ourselves. But, what about self-portraiture in Social Media?
For artists like Rembrandt and van Gogh, self-portraiture is (was?) highly respected...but what about for artists today?
I suppose it depends on how you define art. Does being Instagram famous make you an artist? It seems like an easy question to answer (no!), but...think about it a bit. Isn't Instagram just another form of self-expression? A new medium for visual artists to utilize in a variety of ways?
As much as I try to believe that taking selfies (or having others take photos of you for your Social Media feed) is an art form, I struggle deeply with that notion. Interestingly, I am contractually obliged by some companies to post photos of myself with their products visible. It is part of my job, and as natural or "organic" as these posts may seem, they are still contrived and planned. I don't want to be an advertisement but, let's face it, it's part of what I do. Although I try to be honest and true, advertising on my platforms affects me enormously, for many reasons...
Reason #1: Consumption is not the answer. The skis I use and the clothes I rep do not make me happy (re-read). I find joy in having nice things, but I don't need many things to be happy. Despite the fact that I look fulfilled by using these products, in truth I am just grateful that the sponsorships allow me to get outside in the mountains and do what I love. These companies are the reason that skiing is my job. And despite how torn up I am about my sport's excessive consumption and consequential environmental impacts, I know that what I am doing is making me happy, and I have to believe that this joy and this job are my catalysts for the change I believe I was ultimately meant to make. Though some of my posts may be for sponsorships, I can still believe in and encourage my audience to get outside. To stand up against climate change (seems ironic, I know). To be their best selves. I can still tell my story and hope to inspire others.
Reason #2: The dishonesty in Social Media is slightly repulsive. The perfect pictures on perfect days, with perfect hair and big smiles do not show the whole picture. They are glimpses of beautiful moments in seemingly beautiful lives when the truth is: life is messy. While these wonderful moments exist, they are interlaced with countless difficult ones: with suffering and tears, fear and uncertainty. So, don't be fooled. Those famous babes on Insta fart and pick their noses and have really, really bad days too. It's unfortunate that perfection is so ruthlessly perpetuated on Social Media... It gives viewers unrealistic expectations. In fact, many of these Social Media "Influencers" are probably unhappy and heartbroken. They are attached to their phones. They are attached to their "likes" -- their sense of self-satisfaction exists in a number below a selfie. When that number doesn't consistently grow or meet their high expectations, they are sadly impacted in ways their viewers cannot understand. I know, because I've felt it.
Which is why I did my final project in Photography this spring on self-portraiture (or, the "selfie"). Examining the concept of the selfie was necessary for me to come to terms with it, and here's what I found:
No matter how "modest" you think you are (or try to be), a selfie is still seen as an expression of vanity and self-absorption. Posting photos of yourself seems narcissistic (and sometimes is), and effects the way your viewers see you. It will even affect the way your friends and loved ones see you, so you must be prepared for the repercussions of that: the judgement and relentless criticism along with the adoration and support. Regardless of whether your selfies are intended to be sarcastic, people still take you too seriously. Even in self-depricating photos, photos depicting your dark sides, or ones blatantly intended to spark a conversation, the selfie-taker is still at the center of attention. Self-centered? On the surface, it appears so. No matter how you frame it, selfie portraits are seen by many as pointless, self-absorbed perpetuation.
And I get it. But there are many people who appreciate and respect self-portraiture, too. And I also understand that side.
Self-portraits are not just examinations of the self -- they are a way to tell a story. They are a way to relate to others, a way to connect and inspire. If people would rather see photos of ME than beautiful photographs of mountains, or artistic interpretations of my surroundings, so be it. If selfies are influential then, god damnit, I'm going to try and influence my viewers to be better: to be more confident, to be good neighbors, to be kind and compassionate. I'm not totally sure how to do that without seeming like just another self-proclaimed self-help guru, but I can try...try to be different, try to be honest. Try to connect to people and connect people to each other. Try to love myself as I am, and hopefully help others do the same. Try to tell my story in a way that relates to viewers, try to create positive change. After all, that's what I believe I'm meant to do, and I have to fulfill that purpose somehow... if it's through selfies, then fine. It's not exactly my dream method, but there will be time for that later. For now, Social Media selfies are my catalyst, whether I like it or not...
These are the self-portraits that I took for the final project in my Large Format film photography class that I took this spring. My intention was to examine how my art/self-portraits are influenced by endorsements and by my idea of self-representation to my audience. Regardless of how raw, natural or organic I try to be, I am inevitably influenced (and sometimes controlled) by exterior forces. This is an examination of that.
Each of these photographs took a minimum of 2 hours of work to render: from the extensive setup of a 4x5 inch film camera to the developing of the film and finally the digital processing and editing. Hence, a lot of thought and preparation went into each photograph: I not only learned so much about the intricate process of ancient self-portraiture, but I learned so much about myself. How am I seen? How do I see myself? A lot can be told from these self-portraits. You can see me holding a shutter-release in each photo: I wanted to make it clear that I was taking these pictures of myself, myself.
In no way am I trying to degrade the companies whose products I used in some of these shots: I am simply examining my relationship to those products/companies and am interested in how my image is affected by them. I am grateful for these sponsorships but am also aware of the need to be critical and educated about the impact the partnerships have on me and my followers. Critical thinking is healthy and I intend to perpetuate that model of awareness.
Thanks for looking! Please comment (and leave contact info if necessary) if you have questions, concerns, or just interesting thoughts!
The Olympics are an opportunity for the World to come together, in one place at one moment in time, and join hands in unity. The Games are extremely unique in the sense that EVERYONE is invited. You don't have to have a high GDP, a certain political stance, or even the best athletes in the World. There was an athlete in Pyeongchang from Tonga. I mean, they have never even seen snow in Tonga. Yet, they still sent an athlete to represent their country....no, he did not win a medal. But his courage to compete with the best (and go nearly naked to Opening and Closing Ceremonies) was acknowledged and respected. There were so many unique athletes with incredible stories. Pride and openness abounded. We all put our differences aside to come together and compete on the biggest stage.
The Olympics really are like a very important meeting of sorts. Except each country does not send politicians and businessmen -- they send their best athletes. It is kind of crazy, if you think about it: some of these athletes are very worldly, well-known and well-spoken, while other have never left their home country or been on T.V. And we all convene as equals, for a short period of time. We trade pins and jackets and hats and flags, we get to know one another and journey through some of the most stressful days of our lives together. That, in itself, is something truly special: suffering together. Your differences become irrelevant and similarities are exaggerated.
We are all good people. For some it is more outwardly apparent than for others...but, somewhere, deep-down, we all want the best for our selves, our brothers, our families and therefor humanity. We are all connected as a species. This is probably the most fundamental tie we have to one another, and a hugely important one at that.
The competitions/race/games at the Olympics are an important opportunity for us all. The winners and medalists receive a lot of praise and attention, but every athlete is given the opportunity to be seen, heard, and to represent our countries. Some people want the best athlete to win but I, personally, want the best person to win. I hope for the most humble player, the one with the biggest heart, the one who wants to do good in this world, to win.
In order to make positive change, we must be heard. The stage at the Olympics gives us a fantastic opportunity to do just that: be seen, be heard, be respected and listened to. It opens doors for athletes to stand up for what they believe in. It allows us to represent the parts of our countries that we are proud of: for me, freedom, equality, hope, diversity, and kindness. These values differ greatly between athletes, but regardless of your personal ideals the Olympic Games are an opportunity to express yourself to the World. And that's pretty freaking neat.
While I'm walking away without a medal, I am not empty-handed. I am proud of what I have accomplished. I gave everything I had to these Games and did my best. That is all I could do, and all I can hope now is that my journey, my story, will inspire others to dream big, work hard, and become better people.
These Olympic Games have taught me so much and snowed me the potential of all that is possible to achieve through sport. This possibility is something I was unaware of before but am now humbled and inspired by. Now I am motivated to get back to the grind and become not only a better skier, but a better person. A better representative of my country, or...the country I dream it to be, and a better representative of the human race. I hope I can return in 4 years and join hands with the rest of the World again. I hope I can show what I have learned -- both on and off the hill -- and make an impact to create positive change and inspire others to do the same.
It all started when I was 2 years old and clicked into my first pair of skis. They were tiny little things, but I found they worked best with a bit of speed. One of my first memories I have of skiing is getting really upset with my dad for keeping me tied to a rope that he essentially used as a leash. I don’t blame him now for using this method; I was unruly, reckless and probably a danger to all skiers on the mountain (myself included). All I wanted to do was go straight, to go fast… I guess that’s why I ended up being a speed skier.
From a very young age I remember finding my freedom in the mountains: with the wind in my face, gravity pushing me to a higher state. In one of my first ski races (in Lake Louise, Alberta, around age 6) I recall speeding down the course, vaguely skiing past — perhaps not even through — the blue and red gates. I was noticing the falling snow flying by, the crystal-like blanket forming atop the tree branches. I don’t remember any specific thoughts, only the moment-to-moment thrill I felt and awe of my immediate surroundings. Everything was alight. This was perhaps the first moment in my life when I experienced flow, though I had no idea at the time. All I knew was that I wanted more.
When my family moved from Alberta to Oregon I had to make new friends and adjust to a new home in an unfamiliar place…but I got to bring my love of skiing along as I explored a whole new mountain. I connected to Mt. Bachelor with ease and continue to discover new pockets of delicious freedom there to this day. Everything fell into place and I continued to grow as a skier while discovering that my passion could take me even farther than I anticipated.
My first memory of the Olympics actually lies in gymnastics. In 1996 I was 7 years old and, through my love of gymnastics, was inspired by the gymnast Kerry Strug in the summer Olympics. Her determination and grit stuck with me when she competed in her final event — vault — with an injured ankle. She nailed the landing on one foot and won gold for team USA. I even cut my hair like hers, and was subsequently called a boy in school. But I didn’t care…I just wanted to be like Kerry.
When I had to make the difficult decision between gymnastics and skiing 6 years later, my desire to be outside persevered and I chose the mountains. I made the US Ski Team when I was 17 years old, towards the end of my senior year in high school. Despite my success in skiing, I never had an “aha” moment. My progress to the World Cup scene and eventually the 2014 Olympics in Sochi was a slow process. I didn’t really realize my Olympic dreams until they became a reality.
I suppose the Olympic spirit was always in my blood; my grandfather won the Olympic gold for team Canada in ice hockey in 1952 (his name was Al Purvis). But he never spoke about his medal — he was a quiet, modest winner, and I was both mystified and inspired by this. I always knew competing in the Olympics was a possibility for me, but I never set the objective goal. It wasn’t until I stood in the start gate of the Sochi Downhill that I understood the significance of the event. It hit me all at once: the magic, the meaning, the legacy. I could feel it so deeply, and will carry that sensational feeling with me forever.
Of course I was thrilled when I found out I had made the Olympic team in 2014. The hype around the Olympics was intriguing to me but also somewhat troubling: I didn’t know what to expect, there was a lot of pressure, and I was nervous about performing in front of the whole world. But the entirety of the experience is what captured me: the excitement of the opening ceremonies, the intrigue of being a representative for my country, part of a team, part of something bigger. I was wide-eyed and dazzled: hypnotized by the spirit.
Competing was unmistakably terrifying, and although I ended up taking 11th place in the Downhill, I walked away with a spark, a fire ignited in me, that meant so much more than my result.
Since 2014 I have experienced so much while competing in World Cup ski racing. I have had great results: a World Cup podium and multiple top-ten world rankings. And while I can’t contribute these improvements solely to my Olympic experience, I have a hard time believing that my skiing hasn’t been effected by that spark lit in Sochi.
To be part of the Olympic team this year in PyeongChang would mean so much to me. After experiencing a significant knee injury at the end of last season, I have worked so hard to get back on my skis for this winter racing season. The Olympics were always in the back of my mind, and although it is not my sole purpose, it would be an incredible accomplishment to make the Olympic team and another big step on my road to recovery. To prove to myself that all the effort was worth it: the countless hours spent in therapy, in the gym, endlessly working on my body and mentality. To be a part of that something bigger again would be such a great reward. To stand in the Olympic start gate again has been one of my goals ever since 2014: not necessarily to walk away with a medal, but to take away the magic and enjoy the incredible process. With that enjoyment, I have found, comes speed. And with that speed comes fulfillment and flow: the freedom I have found from the beginning. And, who knows, maybe I could have a really good day, a great run, and be one of the fastest racers down the mountain as I’ve always dreamed of…
Riding the chair with Jules in Sochi, 2014. Julia retired this past weekend of racing...she will be missed, but her spirit will live on -- especially in the Olympics.
It has been a lot, this recovery. From pain to fear to doubt to hope to thinking too much to letting it go, I have been through more than I could have imagined before it all happened. After finally completing my first race in St. Moritz, I am happy to say that I am back ski racing again. Although I have had mixed feelings about it over the past few months, I realized recently that this is what I worked so hard for. This is what I am supposed to be doing right now. This is another step on my path, and I want to walk it with certainty and grace.
Before my first race in St. Moritz I fought many battles with myself: why am I doing this? Is it worth it? Am I too scared now? Should I just move on? Is this were I am supposed to be?
But I switched the flip. I got sick of doubt and fear, and swimming in the thick of it all. I know it's there. I've walked with it. And I'm so much better with it by my side, but it is not all that is there. There is so much more. Here is my journal entry from the night before my first race:
Here I am, in St. Moritz, sitting at my desk in my room, prepping for bed the night before my first race back. My first race after that terrible accident and the proceeding terrible/wonderful months. Eight months and eleven days, to be exact....
I have gained and lost perspective, over and over again. And I am constantly working on fine-tuning, stepping back, having patience. I need to be aware of expectations. I can tell that, although I have not intentionally set them, they are there. I need to remember to be kind to myself, to be easy with expectations, stay aware and present and remember to enjoy the ride. Remember that there are so many other things out there that I am so passionate about, and look forward to exploring. Remember how small this world of skiing is, but remember that I am here. Now. Remember my breath. And remember the joy.
Though I haven't skied much at all over the last 8 months, my body remembers. My mind remembers, my muscles remember. My skiing is still there, my fundamentals are still there...my trust and flow is what I'm searching for now. I understand the risk that I am taking (I have thought endlessly about this), and now it is time to let that be. And ski. To be firm with myself: I know I am taking the risk. I am willing to suffer the (unknown) consequences. There is no need to dwell on that, to dwell on the future, to dwell on the fear. I have acknowledged it, have gotten to know it, have walked, breathed, and sat with it. Fear and me: we are pals, to say the least. Like sisters: we may not always get along harmoniously, but we love each other deeply. I know she is there and I respect her.
But it is time to do my job. The job that I love and enjoy so much. And the only way to return to that joy is to trust, let go, and let it fly. What happens happens. Let go of expectations, let go of control. You can only do what you can do. It's time to get back into this ski-racing thing, and to enjoy the shit out of it, no matter how fast or slow I am. I will commit to this decision, and although there will be moments of doubt and great struggle, I will commit to remembering how I want to move forward -- with intention, with ease, with joy. With a big heart. With deep breaths and with courage. With self-love and kindness, with an open mind and a strong will. With ferocity, hunger, patience and passion.
So tomorrow is the day when I begin. And it feels so good to know that I am going to take that step. Scary. Terrifying, even, but so good. Stepping up to the task, stepping up to the challenge. Facing it with trust and with courage. Facing it with the mindset of being present, bringing joy to it, bringing fire and passion and hunger....like I used to, but slightly different: I am older, wiser, more whole and more myself. Myself now -- which is a different self. One that I look forward to getting to know better, getting to express, getting to RACE with. I am certain that I want to do this, certain that I am exactly where I should be. And I am certain that I am okay with the unknown. Onward!
It was a beautifully terrible day. There's something about stormy days on the mountain -- you can't hear yourself speak, up against the wind. The snow is swirling around you madly, the surface of the slopes disappears with the blowing layer of wind and snow. Vertigo comes and goes, you can barely feel your fingers -- it's nicer when they go numb. All the noise actually creates this stillness, in which the only thing you can feel and hear is your own breathing. I love stormy days. They push me, challenge me to find my center.
This one was especially challenging. In the meeting the night before the U.S. Nationals GS race, the coaches said the race would basically run no matter what...so we knew it was going to be a crazy weather day. At the start, the first gates were blowing down hill in the tail wind. I was cold, down to the bone. The sleet had piled up overnight but was slipped off of the icy GS course. I was only there racing for the hell of it, for fun. It had been 2 years since my last race in GS, but I was excited to give it a shot again. After all, it used to be my best event. I remember taking off my outer layer and immediately freezing my buns off -- clicking into my skis and mentally preparing for a wild ride.
The first few gates were fast...very fast for a GS. The tail wind pushed me out of the start -- I barely had to pole at all. By the third gate, I was hauling; arcing some nice turns on the top flat. I think it was the sixth gate. I remember there being a roll preceding it, and when I pressured my skis for the right footer on the backside of the roll, they slipped out from underneath me on the ice. I was sliding on my left hip, thinking I could stand back up and still make the next gate -- a silly hip-check at high speeds...they can be fun to pull off. But, now, I know better. Before I was fully back on my feet (my weight was transferred, but I had yet to stand completely back upright) I hit a pile of new snow with my right outside edge. It twisted and jerked my knee out with incredible force.
I'm not even sure what the crash was like. All that remained was pain. Excruciating pain. And that is all that existed to me for the following hour. I don't even remember thinking about what was wrong, where my friends and family were, if I'd ever ski again. I only remember pain and the accompanying aspects: moving into a sled, wailing uninhibitedly, Micum (my physio) consoling me on my sled ride, shivering, shaking, pain. In a sense, it was probably the most present I have ever been for such a span of time -- I was forced to be with the pain, and although I was not "okay" with it (all I wanted was for it to be gone), I was at least with it. I could barely breathe -- I was choking on my sobs and violently shaking throughout my entire being. The pain penetrated to my very core. I have experienced many kinds of pain -- from dislocated shoulders to bone-deep lacerations, from a broken heart to a shattered pelvis -- but all have paled in comparison to this. It was awful, horrific, unbelievable...and it was terrifyingly real.
Eventually I was loaded up with fentanyl -- even a normally large dose didn't numb me enough. But I began to care about other aspects of my reality, and that's when I realized how all-encompassing the pain was. It was almost like, when I was living in the pain, I was in another world; a hell of sorts. A world where nothing good exists. How I wish I'll never have to return to that place...
The first rational thoughts I remember having were the appreciation for and comfort in having my best friends by my side: Leanne, Resi and Alice were the first ones whose presence provided me some solace. I felt their sympathy and love, and was so grateful for that. I spoke to my parents on the phone (which probably freaked them right out), and Tommy arrived somewhere in the midst of my transition from 'the pain hell' to my bad version of reality. I don't know what I'd have done, had I not had friends and loved ones around. Every pang was accompanied by assuagement. Leanne even rode in the back of the ambulance with me...it was a long, hazy ride of doubts and consolations.
That ambulance ride was the first time I began considering my future: what was actually wrong with my knee? I knew it was something awful, but I had no idea about the extent of my injury yet. Would I ski again? Would I walk again? What would I do if I couldn't get back to these physical capabilities? I thought about University, about my degree, grad school. I thought about whether, if I could ski again, I would even want to. To expose myself to the potential of experiencing it all again seemed out of the question. Thank god Leanne was there providing some rational insight: wait. See how you feel. Now is a terrible time to make decisions.
And she was right. Any time over the next 6 weeks would have been a terrible time to make any sort of life decisions. So I didn't let myself. I told myself: until you're completely out of the pain, no big decisions. And fuck. Those next 6 weeks were so hard.
When I learned, the night of my accident, the extent of my injury, I knew it was going to be a long, bumpy road. But I didn't REALLY know...you never really know until you're in it. Four days later I went under the knife in Vail. I woke up after surgery, back in the pain place: sobbing and restless. That first night was hell. I barely slept, which is pretty miraculous considering the amount of morphine being dripped into my veins all night. I had horrible visions of the pain lasting, for any time at all. And it certainly did. I vaguely remember writing about it in my journal, but mostly numbing myself with pain medication and not feeling like myself for what felt like a ridiculously long span of time.
I cried in every therapy session over those first 4 weeks. I would even cry in the car on the way to therapy, foreshadowing the pain it would cause. But I knew I had to do it to get back to skiing and living how I wanted. That first month I was burdened with intense anxiety -- fear of PT and the pain, fear of my future, fear, even, of the present. I got to know my darkest self and, although there were glimpses of light, I didn't enjoy much of anything at the time. I took so many Vicodin, Oxycontin, CBD this and Arnica that, attempting to soothe the discomfort. But I just had to ride it out...thankfully I didn't know that beforehand.
Aside from all the misery, there was love. So much love. Nothing felt like enough at the time, but now I can look back and see how lovingly I was cared for. Tommy flew with me from Maine to Vail and was there for the surgery. Both my mum and dad came out to Vail to help me during my surgery and first week of recovery (holy shit, I desperately needed their help). My friend Elle moved to Bend to help me for a few weeks. Kelly made me insanely delicious meals and brought me breakfast in bed literally every morning for the first 6 weeks. She rubbed my feet at night and slept with me on the bad nights. My mum and I slept in the same bed for the first time since I had meningitis, years ago. Kyle crafted bouquets for me and filled the house with spring colors and scents. My dad brought dinner over countless nights, and helped with my at-home therapy every single day. My therapist Ellie even came to my house on the weekends. Tommy drove me to Utah and committed to living there with me for 6 weeks in May/June, despite his desire to spend time at home in Oregon. Even Jar (Kelly's dog) would cuddle me sometimes -- a rarity for the peculiar pup. Looking back on it all, it was magic. I was surrounded by the most wonderful people, but I couldn't see that clearly at the time.
I was always freezing cold -- shivering under all the covers, obsessed with my heating mat and constantly taking scalding-hot baths. I lost 15 pounds over the first few weeks, mostly from my loss of appetite but partly due to the cold and anxiety as well. Thinking clearly was a luxury...it began happening more regularly about a month after surgery. I embraced these times to write or do homework; I took a few online classes to dedicate my mind to useful thinking. Eventually, I submerged from the cloud of drugged-up obscurity and came back to myself.
I got inspired by my classes -- to create, to dream, to keep moving. I adopted an "anti-inflammatory" diet (no gluten, dairy, alcohol, night-shade vegetables, fried food, or sugar) for a while and learned how to cook with fresh, whole foods. I spent countless hours in therapy (a regimen that has not come to an end), working on my knee while tending to the rest of my body as well. Everybody thinks you'll have all this extra time when you get injured, but so much time is spent doing the simple things: getting from place to place, doing physical therapy, taking a shower, trying to get enough sleep countering countless wakeful nights. There have been days over the past 6 months where I'll leave the COE in Park City and realize I spent 9 hours in the gym that day. Then I have to head home to rest, elevate, compress, ice. It is never ending...
But I have made the time to take a few classes, to do some drawing and lots of writing, to read books and magazines. My world seems to have expanded during this difficult phase of healing, despite shrinking down so small at times. I am seeing everything just a little bit differently -- the light peeking through the leaves, the old man on his bicycle, the scars that adorn my changing body. I understand things differently...mostly in the sense that I understand very little, and that's okay. I recognize and appreciate the small victories. I notice elements of the slow progression that accompanies any major injury -- the pain of descending stairs slowly dissipating over an 8-week span. Some things happen fast (not many) and these help me to understand my high expectations (when I rarely fulfill them) and how to keep them at bay.
I've learned how to be gentle with myself, how to be kind. And I know it will take effort to carry this into the winter, but I know, for my sanity and well-being, this is something incredibly necessary for me to continue to work on. I am currently starting to get back on my feet (skis!) down here in Coralco, Chile...and I am allowing myself to get excited, but am making sure I go back to skiing with no expectations. I have worked my ass off, have sacrificed so much, and have been through emotional hell for my sport, but even if it doesn't work out -- if I'm unable to race or ski fast ever again -- it will all have been worth it. Because I'm better from all of this. I am me, and I'm getting to know that person and am learning what really makes me happy and realizing that what it all comes down to, really, is love. So, if anything, out of this process I will take those lessons and begin with loving myself. And maybe out of that love will grow something wonderful.
adventures to and from, here and there, home and away, around the world--through my eyes, lens, and mind