Marolt: A run too short after a long day
There is something very special about being the last one down the ski mountain, least of which is feeling like the race of rats has left you behind. Now, I’m not talking about being the loser in the “last one to the bottom buys the beer” event that must take place dozens of times a day as group mentality begins to focus on tired legs and scoping out the apres-ski scene. I’m referring to the deliberate planning (sometimes scheming) it takes to be the last one off the ski lift, when they shut it down right after you unload.
When you are lucky enough to arrange this, the thing that settles on you like a down comforter on a cold winter night is the silence. In this experience “silence” becomes synonymous with “stillness.” Skiers in motion make noise. Moving chairlifts make noise. We don’t notice this so much when it is happening because the noises are subtle and constant, but their absence causes enough confusion on sensory perception to make the ears hear a consonant stream of the soft “S” sound that mimics what one might call nature’s “shush.”
So pleasant to me is this experience that I choose the end of the day to ski over fresh corduroy and untracked powder that can normally only be had by those braving sunrise standing in a cold lift line before the daily operations begin. When all around me is still as the sun dives for the nearest ridgeline, I hear my own breathing quicken as my speed increases. I hear the wind bend around my body. I hear the edges of my skis cutting snow crystals by the millions every split second. The experience treats my forever-youthful soul more gently than deep, dry powder does my old, worked bones. That’s the deciding factor.
So, it surprises me to learn that the new trend in automobile manufacturing is to place artificial sound makers in or near the exhaust systems to make them rumble when they idle and roar when they take off. Apparently the problem is that the modern internal-combustion engine is so good, so tight, so precisely engineered that the really good ones don’t make much noise anymore, and it turns out that drivers don’t like that much.
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Analysts have discovered that cars that don’t make noise don’t sell so well. I don’t think this is because there is a large segment of idiots in our population who don’t appreciate peace and quiet. I think it’s all of us being so conditioned to certain noises in our lives that we unconsciously feel uncomfortable when they are not being made. If I go and test-drive a new car and it doesn’t make any noise when I jump on the gas, I probably assume it isn’t very powerful, and “So what?” never crosses my mind.
I’m not going to suggest a solution for this; I just think it’s too bad. I think it’s more a symptom than a problem. The danger, I think, is that we have so much noise in our lives that we don’t give ourselves much opportunity to ponder and discover why the heck we are really here.
It makes me think of scientists discovering galaxies and black holes millions of imaginations and daydreams away. They find them by building gigantic telescopes, yes, but even the strongest of them work best when they search from positions on the planet distant from contaminating light produced by our lives. They seek from atop high mountains in thin, dry air near the middle of nowhere.
What our hearts yearn for we won’t see until everything else is gone. But what might we discover from listening in the meantime? I’m not talking about only what we hear with our ears. They only deal with sounds emanating from things other senses can perceive, as well. Ears aren’t all we have to hear with. Doesn’t everyone hear their own deepest thoughts by using their mind, whatever that really is? What draws our thoughts? What guides our feelings? Isn’t that what mankind yearns to know?
Loud noise obliterates its surroundings. Gray noise puts me to sleep. All the sounds between represent life, and it is easy to get overly caught up in that. Silence, as close to it as I can get, brings me closer to clarity and understanding. My car is a noisemaking toy for a big kid. The last ski run of the day is a timeout for that kid who needs to remember what’s important.
Roger Marolt believes he is on the right tracks when he can see them in the powder behind him at the end of a ski day. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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