Kaya Williams: Object impermanence
The idea of change might be an antidote to the midwinter slump
The quote found me more than I found it, a gentle wallop in Chang-rae Lee’s “My Year Abroad.”
It stuck to my ribs, a proposal for object impermanence: that “whenever you say goodbye to someone you should always think that this might be the very last time you see them, that this image will be your final keepsake. It would be pretty crushing, for sure, to go about your days like this, but on the far side of it, kind of exhilarating, too, for having ingrained all that sorrow and impermanence. Your capacity for gratitude would go off the charts.”
It tenderized my soul, and it may well be the antidote for the midwinter slump — the cranky, restless, slush-puddle gray mood that hangs like low clouds around the neck of February and early March. We confuse routine with monotony and submit our spiritual shoulders to the slouch.
We’re deep enough into the season now that we’ve skied what we set out to ski, mostly. Probably, anyway. The bowl has been hiked. Tiehack skinned. The rope dropped on all the good stuff. Some of you already have your 100-day pins. I do not, and as such found myself looking at the 30-ish days I still needed to scan my pass with a sense of resignation I did not think could afflict a winter sports enthusiast such as myself.
The other seasons lack the longevity to lull. The days are longer then, but they go by faster, for the way we all know they’ll end sooner than we’d like. Summer is a fling, winter the kind of long-haul relationship that takes intention to keep sparking.
Perhaps you, too, caught yourself looking at five inches of fresh and grumbling about the crust underneath, or felt your fervor dampened by the slog of so many T-to-Bs. I’ve noticed the powder-day gondola line waning with each storm; what wrapped around the block for fresh tracks in December barely inched beyond the gates for five inches of white stuff the first weekend of March. Law of diminishing returns, maybe, or everyone just slept in on Sunday, and I’m cherry-picking my anecdotes to prove my point.
I don’t think change itself is the answer to this listlessness. Skiing a new line works only to the extent that tomorrow, you have to wake up and decide what other novelty will postpone inertia another day.
But the idea of change might be an antidote, in the way the energy rushes back when it seems like things might be different sometime soon; we do things with more gusto when we know they’re coming to an end. The prospect of loss motivates us with the knowledge it will gut us when it manifests.
I’ve been trying to remind myself of that this week, as a way of dredging the sludge and falling back in love with skiing: how the snow will soften, and the corn will harvest, and soon enough I’ll be thinking about fall lines and lift lines with a kind of starry-eyed fantasy that is testament to the notion that absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder.
In the meantime, I’ll spend a few extra moments staring at the mountains from Sneaky’s and savoring the silence of Sunday solitude on Lud’s Lane. Some things never get old, even when everything else feels like it does.
Kaya WIlliams is a reporter for the Aspen Times and the Snowmass Sun who is determined to get that little 100-day pin this year, even if it means she might have to take a single lap on Nell to scan her pass. Email her at email@example.com.