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You Know Not What You Have Until it is Gone
As I abandon the once freezing cold chair that has since been warmed by my presence, I can not fight the smile that is on my face. Maybe I?m just selfish, but I love it when there isn?t a crowd, and I don?t have to share the park. Looking down the hill, I can see that only three other people braved the chill and had the will to get up this early. As I work my way to a secluded corner to strap into my bindings, my view is enhanced. Though I?ve seen this park enough times to burn an image into my subconscious, each visit brings new wonder. I push myself up and begin my descent to the staging ramp, instinctively brushing off the snow that had accumulated on my backside. As I glide up the staging ramp, I nod at the individual already there. I?ve seen him here before, although I don?t know his name. A silent friendship binds us that rarely needs words. An occasional cheer or wince says more than the daily chatter most are forced to endure.
The sound of the second person echoes softly in my ears, the chatter of his board on the freshly groomed snow getting louder as he grows closer. His image creeps into the corner of my eye while I inspect my bindings. I tighten each binding a few more clicks to ensure a snug fit between my board and I. I don?t watch him as he rides down the hill, but I can tell by
the sound of his board cutting through the hard-pack snow that he isn?t moving at a very high rate of speed. His slow, relaxed, warm-up run tells me that he had probably arrived shortly
before I. As he makes his way down the hill, the sound of his board fades away until everything is silent again. Just then, my partner who I had been sharing the staging ramp with, got up and with a little hop, sent himself speeding down the steep incline. I watch him quickly drop away and glide towards the large tabletop in the center of the park. He effortlessly propels himself off the jump, and I start to notice the entire view before me as he blends into a larger picture.
I feel like I?m on top of the world looking down. In the distance I can see the sapphire blue body of Big Bear Lake glistening as the sun reflects off its mirror-like surface. The light blue sky brings about a calm and content feeling while the frolicking clouds seem close enough to touch. The wind blows softly this morning, yet it nips at exposed skin causing the hairs on my face to stand at attention. I know I will soon appreciate its soothing aspects as I warm-up, so I try not to be bitter about the breeze chilling my already cool body.
I hear the familiar pop of a snowboard landing on ice, and my eyes automatically track its source. I turn in time to see him ride down the six-foot transition and fly off another jump. I whistle softly in appreciation. I decide to get up and follow his course through the park, becoming interested in his choice of direction. He obviously knows the park well and uses the knowledge to his advantage. So many others fall into the trap of riding only a select few jumps, but he goes off the beaten path and slides an unseen rail. He conquers most of the obstacles with a fluid speed that contradicts the difficulty of the task at hand. He travels in directions I don?t expect, and it turns my mind toward thoughts of where I myself might soon
The choices are nearly endless. Though only a couple thousand feet squared, the park is chock full of man made happiness. Formations of frozen rain, hardened into a myriad of varying surfaces that angle, bend, curve, and spill into the ground. From towering heights to enormous pits, a vast array of shapes have been masterfully crafted to blend beautifully into an ever-flowing form. As I scan around I notice all the jumps are aligned perfectly with the symmetry of the mountain, like a life-sized geometry proof.
As I ride the ski lift up for a second go-around, I gaze down at the miniature park below. I begin to devise a route through the terrain, yet I know I will soon stray. I cannot ride this place like a robot with a pre-programmed destination. The park was never planned or mapped out like a structure, but slowly created over time, shape by shape. It evolved from nothing to a living form that has its own energy. My course must change as I ride, because I do not work the terrain but rather follow the energy of the mountain.
As I coast to a stop on the staging ramp, I decide that it?s my turn to do a little showing off. I stare down at the tabletop that my friend effortlessly flew off of earlier. Over and over, I picture myself leaving the lip of the jump, spinning one full rotation, and riding away. I continue to visualize myself accomplishing this act as I wait my turn. Even though I have done this numerous times before, I can feel butterflies in my stomach as my turn nears. I get up, habitually brushing the snow off my backside, and charge down the steep incline of the staging ramp. As I get closer to the jump, I can feel my heart racing like it?s trying to leap right out of my chest. I don?t think anything of it since this is a normal reaction,
maybe even why I enjoy snowboarding. I reach the lip with my arms and body completely wound up and ready to spin as I sail into the sky. Once in the air, I allow my ?muscle memory? to take over and naturally complete the spin I had completed so many times before. Making sure to keep my head looking over my shoulder so as not to slow my rotation, I watch as the horizon revolves around me. In an effort not to get disoriented, I glance down at the landing and observe that I have over-rotated my spin. A violent fear comes over me, for I know I am about to crash hard. As I land catching the front edge of my board, my body is hurled forward onto my head and shoulder, my shoulder taking the worst of it. I feel a pop the instant my shoulder hits the hard snow but quickly forget about it because my head hits next. As I lifted my broken, sorry self up, I know that I have hurt myself pretty bad. I feel sick to my stomach, and there is a loud ringing in my ears. I figure it is in my best interest to call it a day and go visit ski patrol. My shoulder is sore, but it doesn?t hurt as much as my head, probably because of all the adrenaline flowing through my body. By the time I get to the ski patrol room, I must be over the initial adrenaline rush because as I reach down with both hands to un-strap my bindings, I feel such a fierce pain in my shoulder that I let out a scream. Right now my head is the least of my worries, for I know that I?ve broken my collarbone. The throbbing pain in my shoulder worsens as time passes. As I walk into the ski patrol room, anticipating getting some much-needed care for my pulverized body, a dismal feeling replaces the euphoric passion I had felt earlier. I know that my season is over. It would be nine months before I would hear the chatter of a snowboard on freshly groomed
snow again. You never realize how much you love something until it is suddenly taken away from you. Snowboarding has been a form of therapy for me. By the time Friday rolls along,
my stress and anxiety levels are high from the preceding week, but as soon as I strap into my board I forget about everything troubling me. When I?m riding, nobody can tell me to put away my laundry or to graph a logarithmic function. I view the mountain as my sanctuary, a place where ex-girlfriends and everything else evil in this world are forbidden. A beautiful place where squirrels, birds, and all of Gods creatures may roam freely without having to worry about accidently wandering onto a freeway. The only thing that matters here is having a good time and bonding with your amigos. Whether it be cheering as you watch your friend land a new trick, or spending countless chilly nights in a poorly insulated cabin having contests over who can burp the loudest. Although I will be back next winter, it is still disheartening to know that for the next seven weeks, I will be at home in bed while my friends are having a good time without me.
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