Wednesday, May 13, 2009

the fabulous thrill of imminent disaster

There's something missing from my days. Something vague, something I cannot quite get a handle on. I've become a gardener and a seamstress, a cleaner, a writer, a putterer. At this state of so-called midlife, a term I feel scared and afraid of, unable to imagine that it pertains to me, I have become addicted to the rush of adrenaline I only get when flying down a mountain.

Over the past two winters I have regularly asked myself what my problem might be; what is my death wish? I have strained and strived to go farther, steeper, faster than is at all acceptable for me. I nearly ruined my left knee several years ago skiing the icy slopes of the Italian Dolomites. That fall and long recovery made me wonder if I would ever feel any kind of thrill again, not only skiing, but doing anything else. My following winter back on the mountains of Italy I spent hesitantly, fearfully.

But then something happened. Since I revolutionized my life and moved across the Atlantic into an unknown, I have become the ultimate thrill seeker. Last season I skied down runs with names the likes of Devil's Crotch, Psychopath and The Boneyard. I was lucky enough to catch glimpses of a mountain lynx, countless foxes, coyotes, elk, mountain goat and fluffy white ptarmigan. I was slightly obsessed, and ran out of my house every afternoon, no matter the temperature, no matter the fact that I would surely then have to work into the night to meet my deadlines. I would come home with my braids frozen to my head and my cheeks blazing red from the wind. I would be exhausted, spent. But the feeling of such concentration, such total dedication to my body and what I was doing, made me feel incredibly sane. There is no moment like that one moment when my mind had room for nothing else... not my children, husband, finances, fears. There was only the challenge and the speed and thrill. Sometimes I would arrive at the base of the mountain panting for breath, covered in sweat beneath my many layers of clothing despite the sub-zero temperatures.

I never thought I would become this way in my middle life. So much responsibility and so much in my charge. But still, for me there is nothing, nothing, like the fabulous thrill of imminent danger.

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