Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Late Bloomers

My mom was up visiting for my graduation, and I had the good fortune to go hiking with her for a few days. If you've never been on a hiking trip with Safta, its a real treat. Now, a caveat here is that if you really want to go anywhere, you can't let her take either her birding book or her wildflower book, or her binoculars.

BUT, if you want to have one of the best, most memorable days of your life, and if you'd like to discover the beauty of the world as it is all around you, I'd suggest a walk with Safta.

Late August, most of the flowers are done, even in Bozeman, up at altitude, in one of the wettest summers we've had, things have gone to seed. I tend to see the big picture as I hike along, taking in the scenery as I walk, heading toward peak or ridge, and falling into my own world.

Walking with my mom, I realized, as we left the car, went ten feet, found mountain astor, columbine, bluebells, and countless other flowers hiding in the brush. After this incredible session, we walked literally across the path, where we found a whole cache of lupine.

As I stood in the sun and watched my mom blissing out on the beauty that were these rare late bloomers, I realized that while I had hoped she would come out to visit earlier in the year, when the carpets of wild flowers are like country quilts over the meadows, this moment in time, when the few late bloomers are hiding their color carefully, is a moment of absolute rare opportunity.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering up the trail in pursuit of the hidden late bloomer, I realized the cornball analagy that everyone uses is absolutely true. I don't think any of us would choose to bloom late, I think we'd all like to be born with a huge amount of easily accessible talent, a true and easy to see path, and the will and desire to head down it right out of the starting gate.

So pardon the fairly obvious allegory, but somehow the full impact of what it means to be a late bloomer hit me.

Sometimes that innate talent shows itself in whispers and desires of childhood, in the games we choose to play, in the sport we do, but we never realize that perhaps, these games, this unfocused play is actually our light, our mini bloom.

Maybe that's why I love teaching adults to ski, or re teaching them. Because its something lots of them did as a kid, or wanted to do, but never thought they could be good at, or better than they were when they were young.

These thoughts connected like plugs in a powerstrip, Mike skating in the skate park and doing things today he coudln't even think about doing when he was younger, my mom finding beauty where everyone was running past, assuming the season for beauty was over, and my own journey to this seemingly ridiculous goal of being a professional skier at 37.

I think that there is some idea that we reach a point at which we have to say, well, I tried, now its time to get with the programme and be real, give up on the whispers of my dreams, the talents people may have told me I had, and sit down and fill out paperwork.

What if it didn't work that way? What if you could learn to ski at 35 and be a pro before you were 40? What if you always wanted to be a painter, and you started your professional career at 70? What if? What if being a late bloomer allowed you to bring all of the wisdom of your life and past experiences to the table, in the same way that you really appreciate your graduate degree after you party your way through you BA and feel, a bit sheepsihly, like you may have missed part of your college experience?

I think in this age, when suddenly things seem uncertain, and people are casting about for meaning, maybe realizing that a chicken in every pot, a car in every garage, consuming, hoarding, collecting stuff is not the point, but living your life, really living it, remembering what you wanted to be, and allowing yourself to become that person again, maybe that's the point. To breathe in, and feel alive. Even if you breathe in and it hurts a little, because you broke a rib skateboarding.

PS, I have great pics of my mom for this post, but i'm having trouble uploading them... stay tuned!

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