Managing Risk Through Gratitude

At 2:30 AM standing on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean I waded into the water as far as my body and mind would allow. The muscle memory of casting and stripping line is so engrained that no visual cues are required to place the line how and where I want to, thus fishing for striped bass on a fly in the dark is a newfound favorite activity. On this particular morning nature’s aquatic lightshow, bioluminescent plankton surrounded my feet and legs while the intense and momentary shimmering of shooting stars above me slowly gave way to the more predictable rising sun. This is why I love dawn patrols. Whether climbing a mountain in search of snow to ski, clipping into bike pedals to train, or wandering the shore of an ocean in search of fish, these hours just before the sun introduces a new day are without question my favorite. This time is soft, slow, and quiet, and peace is easy to come by. Moreover, although I often travel alone in the aforementioned hours and places I almost always feel the bonds with my community strengthening as a result of such experiences. On this particular morning my internal dialogue was tracing back through the early mentors and partners who patiently and generously guided me through the early years of backcountry skiing.
Thus for this week’s entry and discussion I thought it would be wise to assess who and what we are grateful for in our skiing communities and lives. This morning I returned home with an increased appreciation for the diverse set of skiing partners I have had the opportunity to share the mountains with. Below is an excerpt of an essay I wrote a while back attempting to convey my gratitude.
      My first ski tour was in the North Cascades right off of Highway 20 just under the Liberty Bell and Early Winter Spires. It was trial by fire to say the least. It was my first dawn patrol, it was my first wrestling match with skins, it was my first lesson on snowpack analysis, and the post trip shin blisters clearly highlighted that it is important to know how to use your risers. The metamorphism of all these micro experiences created a day that is more vibrant in my mind than almost any other memory I possess. When we got back to John’s car late in the afternoon Meghan looked at me, smiled, and said “someone’s life is about to change.” It did. The freedom and humbling beauty that I am now privileged to experience every winter arrive in part because of John and Meghan’s willingness to share their passion for the mountains on that day.
      Today I found myself wanting to express gratitude to all those incredible people who are still present in my life. For some these words of appreciation are long overdue. Thank you for taking me on my first tour, thanks for always finding an extra couch for me, teaching me how to make breakfast burritos and homemade pizza, showing me secret stashes, telling me stories, imparting your backcountry wisdom, introducing me to new music, including me in your goals and dreams and thank you for opening up your lives, families, and homes to me. Additionally I am incredibly grateful for all those friends and loved ones who I never make turns with but who anxiously await my safe return from the mountains. Your never-ending positive reinforcement for something I know you don’t fully understand is the epitome of selflessness and unconditional love.

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