|Sullygram...May 2017 newsletter
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|Author:||Thomas (Sully) Sullivan [ Tue May 16, 2017 6:49 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Sullygram...May 2017 newsletter|
Zounds, who knew? My Idaho adventures written every April were apparently missed when I did not travel there this winter. I’ve been blindsided by all the emails/messages asking for same. A dear lifelong friend, Bruce Norvell, has hosted me six years running (or more appropriately, skiing) and almost persuaded me for a seventh at the last minute, but it was not to be.
One of your emails asked if Idaho was the most challenging skinny skiing I’ve ever done. Certainly the Sawtooth Mountains, Snake River, and Stanley Basin above Sun Valley are the most beautiful, but I have a very specific saga to relate as a substitute for what I didn’t write this year, and it’s a narrative that perhaps has a point to make about destiny being aided and abetted by the spontaneity of life.
Let me take you back decades to a time when I was just beginning to ski and it was all classic style. A race in northern Michigan called the White Pine Stampede covered 50K (about 32 miles) of incredible terrain, including climbing and descending two downhill resorts (Schuss Mountain and Shanty Creek). True to my nature, I decided quite suddenly to drive up and seek a late entry into the field, though I had never skied more than 11 miles in my life and had a couple of injuries that made even that problematic.
From the start that Friday before the next day’s race everything was ramble-scramble. At the end of a teaching day in Dearborn, Michigan, I threw the skis in the car and drove to Mancelona. In a way the race had already started for me because I drove like a banshee, though law enforcement did not catch up until I arrived that evening. And then it was for a simple U-turn in the middle of a town that was chaotic with skiers arriving from all over the world. I rather like the unexpected and have come to – well – expect it; and so it didn’t seem all that strange to me when the cop who pulled me over quickly became more than a traffic stop and we wound up having dinner together (no ticket). The late entry was a hassle, but that too fell into place. Don’t remember if or where I slept, but when dawn came I stood with over 1000 other eager skiers on a high school football field waiting for the shotgun start.
We went from something like 32 tracks to 16 to 8 to 4, 2 and 1 by the end of 5K. It was eerie as hell because the long gray line of feverishly working skiers was absolutely silent in the mist. Passing was perilous in the tip-to-tail line. Sudden drops and sharp turns resulted in collisions where you could learn to swear in four languages. One of them involved me, and I arrived at the bottom of the heap with Charlie horses in both calves and both thighs. A shapely female in spandex was in front of me, reason enough to stay where I was until the Charlie horses unstiffened. Finally passing her, I was shocked to see that she was old enough to be on social security. Oh yeah, skinny skiing will preserve you like fruit in a fridge (just ask Jackrabbit Johannsen who died at age 112...still skiing).
And have I mentioned the weather? It soon turned ugly and then disastrous. For a while you would be skiing pristine woods, sluicing through a snow tunnel next to a creek and staring out at chocolate torte chalets hanging out of the clouds. 10 minutes later you would be caught in a white-out unsure if you were even still on the trail. What had been 1000 skiers dwindled down in the brutal conditions. After 20K I saw fewer than a dozen racers the whole rest of the way. You could read signs of desperation at the occasional aid stations where chocolate snow marked the passage of the survivors who had grabbed up M&Ms out of open bowls. I do believe those same athletes who would have killed their grandmother to move up two spaces in line just an hour earlier would have sat down in the snow and told you their life story at that point in the race.
Only something like 50 skiers finished. I went the last 7K with a broken pole. And though I had hypoglycemia, I remember eating six candy bars on the bus ride back to the start and not even feeling a sugar bounce.
So that was the most challenging skiing I’ve ever done, made magical because of the spontaneity and the adversity and many things I have not recorded here – a perfect fit for my life!
To underscore the point I said I would make about destiny being aided and abetted by spontaneity, let me tell you this about the following winter: I prepared, trained, skipped work and showed up a day early for the White Pine Stampede 50K. I did not run afoul of traffic police. I slept in a motel and ate properly. And I bombed out at 5K, owing to the fact that despite all my preparation I came down with the flu. They told me I had taken off my gloves and was sitting in the snow somewhat delirious. Thus, I was driven unceremoniously back to the start in a golf cart. No glorious aftermath of endorphins, no six candy bars. This is what happens when you are timid, formal, sanctioned, endorsed, conforming. Much better to live a life that hones you to expect magic. If the meek ever inherit the earth, they won’t know what to do with it.
So there you have it – alas, nowhere near as beautiful or serene as my recent forays across the northern United States but not to be missed in the totality of discovery and adventure.
Also, a mention here about last month’s Sullygram, celebrating the wind. My lad, the Boy Child, Shane, a.k.a. Sean, keeping me honest and accurate since he was a pollywog, pointed out as others did that my spelling of the wind as Mariah is in some songs simply spelled Maria. Pick your poison, I got me sources. And thanks for everyone with poetry in their souls who enjoyed what I wrote. Maybe it’s all the sailors in my family going back generations, but a steady breeze on my face puts me instantly before the mast. Finally, the link did go down for a while, so here it is again: http:// http://www.thomassullivanauthor.com/new ... 62017.html …
Knowing a great many unusual people is one of the blessings for which I’m extremely grateful. I do think that’s partly a consequence of having my own unusual life. The norms of human interaction are seldom on my itinerary. And so I run into people in strange places, out-of-the-way places, or strike up casual relationships in circumstances where you wouldn’t expect that to happen. We spend so much of our lives seeking out affirmations of our limitations, even our narrowness, that it’s like sameness endorsing sameness. But you don’t have to validate or even understand someone else in order to be enriched by them. Always liked the Three Dog Night line from “Joy to the World”: “…never understood a single thing he said, but I helped him drink his wine.”
This month’s photos below: #1-8 how to explain my lifetime friend Peter Adams and our adventures? Can’t begin to do it. But at some point in the odyssey, Pete drove an old bus down to a remote coast called Roaring Beach in Tasmania and built himself (and the world) a legacy he calls Windgrove. It has become a natural refuge for thinkers and artists and humanitarians from all over the globe. I underscore that Pete BUILT this himself – every building, bench and colossally crafted sculpture to art and nature! He even built a clay tennis court – though he’s a lousy tennis player (but a champion swimmer). His work and teaching have taken him around the world to speak at universities and be featured in museums. So here are some photos of his unique and remarkable retreat at Windgrove on that paradise beach in Tasmania. #9-11 just filling out space in this month’s gallery is a waste of skin called Sully, who drove nowhere, built nothing and whose footprints will be gone with the next wave.
Note: if this is a mirror site and you don't see photos, you can see them here: http://www.thomassullivanauthor.com/new ... 62017.html . And you can find all Sullygrams archived on my author's web page>Sullygrams & Columns.
Thomas “Sully” Sullivan
You can see all my books in any format here on my webpage: http://www.thomassullivanauthor.com
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