Roger Marolt: The fine line between pondering and intellectual laziness
I don’t think I’m high-strung, but I do have lots of energy. The most profound manifestation of this is that I’m a lousy sleeper. I used to believe this was because my eyelids are so thin that I can detect minuscule amounts of light through them, like the blinking green dot of a phone charger down the hallway, but now I’m pretty sure it’s because of my sense of smell. I can pick up the aroma of tomorrow morning’s first cup of coffee the night before it’s brewed. My wife thinks the eyelids are my imagination and the coffee thing is a dream, but I think she ought to try catching a wink on my side of the bed before she judges.
She claims I snore, but I don’t see how. We have debates about this.
I bring this up because this offseason full of nasty weather is murder on a guy like me. There’s not enough snow to shovel, but too much to mow the grass. I can’t stain the deck because it’s too wet. The garden won’t grow because it’s too cold. Things are bad when you complain about not being able to do your chores. Cleaning out the basement doesn’t count.
Riding a bike in tights, an insulated parka and full-finger gloves is miserable enough and made worse by wind-driven sleet pelting your face no matter which direction you go. I seem to pull a different muscle every time I try to go for a run in this persistent chill. Even yoga seems to just slow down time so that summer feels further away than ever. I tried being one with the weather by going for a walk in it, but all that did was make me act nasty, like it was doing.
With all else failing badly, I dug my skinning gear out. I hate skinning. You climb up a mountain on ski equipment purposefully ruined to make it lightweight and easier to walk in, but that is still heavier than just hiking boots. The stuff is so expensive that it gets your hopes up that this year, with this latest and greatest version of gear, the sweat and agony and blisters are going to be worth it because the skiing on this miracle equipment is going to be totally, mind-blowingly awesome!
You know how this goes. Don’t bother taxing your imagination. The odds of you running into an adult moose darting out of the trees to liven things up a little are extremely low. You slog up the never-ending slopes of Snowmass to the top of High Alpine. You have a drink of water, try to squint at the view through the icicles frosted to your eyebrows, and pull your hood tight around your face, bringing on a bout of hyperventilation. You de-skin your skis, click the boots to downhill mode, and push off with muted enthusiasm. The descent is, as always, just a quicker way to get back to the car while, unfortunately, enhancing the workout.
I did end up hiking with my wife up East Snowmass Creek when a winter storm warning was downgraded to a mere watch. You have to get out while you can. We walked up to below Garret’s Peak to look at the wreckage from a massive avalanche last winter. It was the biggest one I have seen in these parts and likely to remain so for at least another hundred years, whether I am alive to see it or not. An eerie thought crossed my mind at the sight: the remnants of a thick forest decimated by natural disaster will likely be the highlight of my offseason.
I came home and plopped down in an overstuffed chair facing my living room window and watched the snow falling in earnest again. It struck me that I never do this; I never just sit and do nothing. I felt a little pang of guilt before realizing there was nothing else I had to do the rest of the afternoon, so I was all-in.
I was doing this thing I looked forward to doing all the time when I first aspired to become a writer and would still, if only I could get an agent who would convince a publisher that I possessed so much talent that they ought to pay me to do exactly this. I was actually pondering! … All kinds of indescribably cool stuff! I was earnestly enjoying myself being so blatantly philosophical, and all.
Then there was a tap on my shoulder. I hadn’t noticed the room had darkened so. “You’ve been asleep for awhile,” my daughter said. “It’s time for dinner.”
Well, I’ll be dipped.
Roger Marolt is now training for an ultra-endurance marathon of pondering. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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