Sunday, June 27, 2010

Wanna be faster? Have to practice going fast.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it. I'm sick of wishing I was faster. If I want to be faster I need to quit whining and practice going faster. I'm lucky, I work at the Aspen Club and Spa, and if we aren't booked, we are encouraged to work out!

I just spent 27 minutes on the freakin' treadmill running uphill as high as it goes at 4.7 miles per hour. Thats as long as I could run. Thank GOD Austin Powers was on. Then I spent another 20 alternating uphill and flat from 3.6 mph to 4.7.

I'll get there. That which it is used for it becomes. I will use my body to run, it will become a body that is good at running.

Hunter Creek Humble Pie

I was out hiking with Kurt last night, we had decided to hike Hunter Creek to Smuggler Mountain rather than our original plan of heading out to the Conundrum Hot Springs in the full moon, because of the intermittent downpours which had been happening all day.

I'd packed my bag for the hike out to Conundrum, a 17 mile round trip which Kurt was hoping to make in 8 hours, including time to socialize and soak with the hoards of people that were like minded full moon hot springs lemurs.

And so the evening found us, me in my heavy capris and a couple of layers with a big backpack and plenty of water, jogging behind Kurt in his light weight distance running gear, tiny fanny pack, and the smallest water bottle known to man strapped to his hips.

Acoustomed as I am to looking like a total goober, I wasn't that concerned about it. Besides, the weight of the pack and the weight of the water could only be good for training, right?

Well, yes, except for when you are chasing someone who is insanely fit. Here's the thing. Even when Kurt isn't in training, even when he's been "relatively lazy" as he puts it (I'm not sure five days straight of backbreaking trail building work on the back of Aspen Mountain counts as lazy, but whatever...) he's still ridiculously fast, lean and strong.

And while I am slowly, agonizingly slowly, getting faster and leaner, I'm still leagues behind being able to keep up. We jogged all the flat bits, sprinted the bridges, and did plyometric exercises up all the cut steps and boulders along Hunter Creek.

"Fierce conversation, Kate?" he asked.

I nodded, eagerly. This is when I learn!

"Yes, please." I said.

"Its a good thing we didn't go up to Conundrum, it would have taken us 12 hours at least."

What? Are you kidding? Now I don't have any illusions about how fast or in shape I am, I mean, I can go all day for days on end at my regular comfortable pace, but its true, when I put speed on it, I tire quickly. I know this must change. I'm not sure how to make it happen other than just put my head down and suffer through it.

It seems to be in direct opposition to the edict, "Find a pace you can go at without stopping, and don't change that pace no matter the pitch change." My thinking here is just to get stronger, and leaner, and keep pushing faster on the trail.

Anyhow, I knew that I could hike Baldy in four or five hours in Bozeman, that's a 10 mile round trip up very steep terrain. Does that mean I couldn't do 20 miles in 8 hours? Maybe so.

"Here is what I know. When you go uphill, you breathe harder and you slow down a lot." This was not a criticism, this was an observation. Now I, myself had observed something similar, so I guess its time to work even harder at building some base with some speed. I think I might have to start jogging. Oh I had REALLY hoped it wouldn't come to that.

Regardless, it was great to get out and get some good exercise, its always good to see just how far I have to go in fitness to be as strong as I'd like to be. And as Kurt so aptly reminded me last night as we came down into town in the dark, "The wanting is the easy part, Kate."

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Unpacking self, boxes, loss and love.

Whenever I move, the first thing that comes with me, aside from my skis, are about eight boxes of books, and two boxes of typewriters and treasures.

Over the years of moving, I've edited my stuff over and over and over again. I'm trying to learn not to be attached to things, and having my studio burn down several years ago, and losing in that fire a huge number of antiques and photographs which were in my safe keeping from my dad's family... heirlooms over 150 years old... taught me that while it is history, and it is beautiful, it is just stuff.

I held for a long time the things my father left behind when he died as sacrosanct. My house was a shrine to how my life might have been had he not died, had my mother not married someone else. Old photographs of us on the boat, treasures of a life in Laguna and Palo Alto, in a family that seemed to exist in my imagination rather than in my memory.

I remember going through my father's house when I was thirteen, the year he died. I remember how strange it was to pull the things that belonged to his person out of the home that had been in the family so long it belonged to his mother.

I didn't really get what death was, although it had been a rough year in that regard, several of my friends had committed suicide, two of them right in front of me, and one of my mothers best friends had killed himself with a shotgun in front of his three year old daughter. The air was thick with loss, I remember finding that losing people became, not the norm, but certainly a piece of life that was fact.

Since this year of submersion into loss, death, grief and healing has become a theme in my life, I find myself around loss, and I find myself at home sitting with it. I find that precious, tender moment when it is revealed to your human heart just how much you are capable of loving to be an honorable place, and I'm grateful to those who reach for my hand and trust me with that piece when they are there.

I remember walking into my dad's bathroom when we were beginning the impossible task of packing up his house, I remember hearing my mom and my sister talking about who would "get" what, and feeling ashamed that that conversation was even being had.

I remember standing in the large bathroom where I had happily bathed in this enormous tub every night, often to the sounds of my parents entertaining downstairs, the humm of their happily fed, slightly drunk adult conversation floating up the stairs. My mother's perfume lingering, her laugh, my father's baritone voice the sound of the piano, creeping down the stairs to watch the movie projected onto the large screen brought up from the basement.

Now, the bathroom was bright, but quiet. I stood there looking at the white tile, remembering the year of the drought when we had to flush the toilet with buckets of bathwater, remembering watching my dad comb his hair in the mirror. Looking at the counter, I see a used tube of V05 hair pomade, the imprint of my father's thick thumb still crinkling the tube. It occurred to me that when he put this down on the counter, his comb laying casually next to it, that he thought he'd pick it back up. This to me was the first indication of what death really meant.

This tube of V05 laid in a patch of sunlight coming through the bathroom window, and it seemed absurd that the sun could do this, come into this house like it always did, even though he wasn't here.

Today, my mom brought home a book case for me. My eight boxes of books and two boxes of treasures, distilled down from a lifetime of collecting and discarding, forced edit by fire or finances, (and where is my big green glass Buddha that I brought home from Thailand??) were finally reopened, and I'm sitting in my room, looking at the familiar paraphernalia of my life.

It felt soothing to find the things I've kept, but there is some sadness there as well. I've been happy living without them since December. Knowing they were in boxes made me sad, I thought about my books and typewriters and treasures often, but things have been so very busy, and really, life was just fine without them.

Today, they are here. My dad's collection of first edition first printing Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan books. My collection of Charles Bukowski. Just one shelf of the five or six I have in Montana of my most treasured Art books, Andelm Kiefer, Richard Deacon, Tim Hawkinson, Leucian Freud, Richard Diebenkorn. Bartlets Familiar Quotations, Emily Post's Ettiquite, Gene Stratton Porter's A Girl of the Limberlost.

Prayer beads, old, cracking Buddhas, a lock of Sophie's hair, the beautiful, wild horse that loved a beautiful wild woman that I loved; some candles. A photograph of my dad and I. A huge heart stone that Michael found in the river the day we met, which seems to hold this echo of a promise that there can be a love that big and fierce. A rice bowl from Tibet. A sculpture that my aunt Mary, an incredible artist who died of colon cancer a few years ago, made.

Journals, sketchbooks, and manuscripts, photographs of paintings that were burned or cut up for firewood when I left Montana.

Last night, I was going through my photos on the computer and I found one of Tom climbing in the Shaaman cave in Nevada. From this trip where we were falling in love, we lived in my truck for months climbing all over the wester US. All of this ephemera is pulling on me. It belongs to what has come before. It seems to be full of belief that there is some future, and pieces of it fall off as impractical, people fall off as they stop believing, and I move on, trusting, perhaps foolishly, that there is this blissful present, and this blissful future.

The clouds have just cracked open with a vengeance suddenly, and I sit here on my bed, amidst this slice of the stickiest stuff, the stuff that used to define me as me and now seems to be a historical catalogue of what actually means something to me, and smell the hot roofs and soil getting soaked through suddenly. The cottonwood fluff is drifting through the rain lazily, the fat rain drops are washing the roofs of the cabins and the leaves of the huge trees. The sun is shining behind this enormous cloud, the sky is blue over pyramid peak, and I'm sitting amongst things that used to, and maybe still do matter.

I suppose that some of the nostalgic sadness is that I have moved in. This cabin is a place we intend to stay, there have been shelves built and long term organizational ideas, we have invested ourselves in nesting here.

I'm not in transition anymore, I'm rooting, building a home base from which to spring with my kids on whatever adventure comes next. And I'm grateful for this place, this paradise, safe and wild for them and for me.

And I live here now, and the family is myself, and my mother and my two kids. My time with Tom has come and gone, the dream of last summer with Mike and his kids turned out to be just that... a dream. The other great love in my life is destined to be just that, a great love, separate and strong. But separate. We walk together, and I hold his heart in mine, but the journey he has to take is arduous and solitary.

So while editing my things and unattaching from them, being willing to discard usually marks some stage in my life where I am becoming myself, undefined by others, I think this unpacking did the same thing, but in a different way. Becoming myself, in space that is only mine, without wishing for it to belong to some other as well, without defining myself through my things so that whoever was sharing my space would not mistake me. I am again learning to be alone, to belong to me, to trust that I am right where I need to be to learn the lesson I need to learn.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thank you.

I was preparing for some meetings at the Aspen Writer's Foundation, and I scrolled through my email to find some quotes from some of the people that have emailed me over the years. In about fifteen minutes, I was sitting at the computer with tears on my face. 
There is a reason that I feel so free and inspired. Its because you guys are on my journey with me, because our journeys are the same. Thank you so much for your encouragement, love, support and honesty. 
Reading them all together was amazing, and overwhelming.
The meetings went really well, and now I am putting together not one but SEVERAL book proposals, and sorting through the blog for a kind of "best of". If you have a post that you really liked, please let me know, so I can be sure to include it.
Thanks again for walking down the path with me.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

On Desire. Love at the Age of 14.

It's six am, and our RV pulls into the marina parking lot a little fast. My step-dad thinks of himself as a professional road tripper and he's rented this monster for the entire month. As we are tooling around Oregon right now, he sits high on the driver's seat, a trucker, a man with a handle, a long hauler.

I hide in the back from the insanity. I'm already in my baiting suit and to my thirteen-year-old mind, it's gotta be 80 degrees in here. The back of the RV has a huge wrap around bed with bunk beds above it; there's a curtain I can pull across, and I'm sprawled across one of the sticky cushions wondering what forced march we are going on today.
While this is by far the coolest trip we've taken as our new family, I am still sure that there is no way to win the aggressive power game that our family plays again today. We all troop resignedly down the stairs and into the general store, wearing hope-with-holes-in-it that today will be better. The general store is built out onto the dock, and this feels suddenly familiar.

When I was very young, until I was six or seven, my family lived on a big boat every summer, all summer long. As soon as we'd tie up, I'd hop onto the dock and run barefoot along the berths, yelling into every boat, "Hey, do you have any kids? Do you have any kids?"

I learned early on that the sooner you find the kids, the longer you have to play with them. I guess I've always been a leaver, searching hard for big connection, cracking open and soaking up whatever love I could get my fingers on when I could get it, milking every minute for whatever adventure there was to be had.

The docks always smelled of gasoline and diesel fuel, There were always splinters in my feet and the feeling of heat radiating off my sunburned shoulders. At some point I'd stopped wearing a shirt, because I had a page boy haircut and everyone thought I was a boy anyway. I didn't care. This way, I had less clothes to keep track of, and I never had to play with teacups inside. I could be with the boys, climbing and cutting my knees, where I belonged.

On my dad's Harley in 1974

Eventually, one morning, the kids I'd been playing with would be gone, they never knew their travel schedule, and I never thought to ask. We'd played hard enough together all the long hours of a summer day until I loved them true, and then, they were gone. I'm sure I did the same thing, getting back to the boat and tucking into my bunk only to feel the engine rumbling in the middle of the night, come up on deck and see the inky ocean slipping by beneath us, and know we'd gone, and I hadn't said goodbye.

In those early days, I could walk over to the helm and climb up next to the mythic figure of my father, solid, thick and giving. I was his peanut, his bug. I fit into the crook of his arm, and the salt of the night air whispered against my face, the rhythm of the boat and the surety of his love turning my face toward whatever adventure was coming next, letting go easily of what had come before.

At the helm of La Donn'Anita with my Dad and Leslie Yarbrough 1974

In this, my thirteenth year, things are different. My dad is not my world anymore; he's disappeared.  While as an adult I would come to understand that for my mother, it was a good thing to make a strong choice. She divorced an alcoholic, but to me the sound of the ice cubes and the smell of the Bourbon on the stern of our boat named after my mother, the lady Anita, was soothing.

But today, walking off the gravel path and onto the dock, I am home. Water. The sound of the clips pinging against the masts. The smell of the diesel fuel, the heat of the oily wood, the sun splitting off the water and bouncing onto the trees.

I don't know where my sister is, or my step brother. I see my step father laughing too loud and being too familiar with the woman who runs the store, and my own mother over at the coolers.

In the meantime, I've met a girl-- tiny, thin, like a drinking straw with hair. She is towheaded and pink-cheeked and she takes my hand after saying hello, and we bang out the back door and down the gas dock to the end, where she jumps straight into the early morning water.

I'm shocked, and worried, but this is her place. These are her parents, this is her world, but she is so small, is she doing something wrong? Am I going to get in trouble for not watching her? Thank God she can swim.

I jumped off a dock once when I was four because I thought I could swim... It had been a hot day and the grownups were drinking in the sun on a floating dock in the middle of a big flat water; the house was floating too, it seems. There was a sleek cigarette boat floating by the dock, and the water beneath was clear and clean. My bored sixteen year old sister was sunning herself with her friend, and I decided I wanted to swim.

And so I did. I walked right off the edge of the dock and fell happily into the water, where I must have held my breath, and sank like a stone. In my mind's eye, I see lake weed and a bent Coca Cola can on the sandy bottom, I am surprised at the murky water, I remember reaching my hand out and suddenly having the breath squeezed out of me as I was rudely yanked back out of the blissful depths and hauled onto the deck.

They tell me my sister saved my life that day, because my mother couldn't swim and everyone else was enjoying an 11:30 am cocktail hour. Hey, it was the early '70s and it was summer.

My reverie is interrupted by the sound of a ski boat, and I'm pulled back into my fourteen year old present. I look up and fall in love. Immediately. He must be fifteen. He has blond hair, he is silky tan, and he's driving this huge boat up to the gas dock.

"Hey, Oliver," says my drinking-straw friend. This, I deduce after a few minutes, is the lucky girl's brother. I am completely confused about my enormous need to be near him, to hear him speak, to watch him gas the boat, to help him coil lines, to fill the bait buckets with him, to see his teeth when he laughs.

The girl, Penny, coils herself around me lovingly and announces to Oliver that I am her best friend. Oliver nods to me. At fifteen, he is old enough to know that I'll be gone tomorrow.

A series of remarkable moments unfurl in rapid succession, which find me happily ensconced an hour later in a speed boat with Penny in my lap and Oliver at the helm, headed over to an island in the middle of the river somewhere, where there is a cooler full of beer and some hot dogs.

Swimming in Canada on the RV trip 1984

Freedom. I sit in the navigator's chair and stare openly at Oliver. The scent of the river and of him dances strong in my face, filling me, blowing through my hair, the stinging, pressing wind taps every inch of my body, which suddenly is awake, alive and present. In the absence of the weighty fear that I carry with me whenever I am near my step father, I feel like living my entire life in this one moment.

Oliver smiles at me, now that I am in the boat, I am one of them, a wild child. He's not old enough yet for the game we play to be complicated. Complicated like it will be next year when it will be enough to be easy for him and heart breaking for whatever girl is in my chair. I'm willing to believe the lie that he loves me, just by virtue of the fact that I am sitting next to him and he is happy, and he is willing to love spending the day with me, without wondering what he can get out of it.

My parents, for some reason, agreed to this. It happened fast, they walked out onto the dock with Penny's parents and saw us playing. They spoke quietly for a few minutes. Then, my mother called down the dock, "Honey, do you want to stay and play?"

Caught deep in Oliver's thick blond hair, brown where the sun didn't touch it, and his eyes, a color I'd yet to experience-- deep turquoise, green, blue and the promise of even five more minutes with him on the dock, I yelled back, "Yeah..." without even looking away.

I didn't know what he had to do that day. I didn't care. If I was stuck playing with Penny on the dock for the rest of the day it would be worth it to stand near him, wanting and trembling for nothing more than his open smile for a few more moments.

I looked back and saw the RV pulling away. I didn't know when they were coming back, they hadn't said goodbye, and I didn't care. If they didn't tell me when to be picked up, maybe I could live here forever, smelling the soggy dock of my childhood and longing for Oliver's desire to be with me, too.

Finally, after the longest, warmest, best day of my life, the sun is going down and my shoulders are an angry red, pinker than Oliver's brick-red, summer-long tan, but I fantasize that our sunburns are the same color. That my day standing on one leg, the other bent casually on the captain's chair as I looked with a long seaman's gaze over the bow of the ship, steering with what I imagined was expert technique and the touch of a person born to live on the water had inducted me into this waterlogged tribe.

We had picked up some of Oliver's friends, older than he was, and all of us had met some other boys on the island for a cookout. Now it was mayhem, it was Lord of the Flies, it is unbelievable what these kids are allowed to do.

Later in the trip, lounging in Oregon 1984

Lighter fluid and driftwood, Meisterbrau, hot dogs on sticks and orange soda for Penny. Coolers are hauled, fire rings made, there might as well be a whole passel of adults there, the boat is moored properly, gear stowed, hauled, cleaned and put up, fires built and blankets gotten to shore without incident.

I lay in the sand, my legs browner than my shoulders, the cooling sand touching the backs of my banged up legs below my cut-offs. Oliver sits across from me and lately, his eyes have left mine less and less.

As the day progresses, I begin to realize it is important that I pretend not to care if he is near me or not. I adopt a most care-free attitude, like this is not the most important day of my life, like this is not the freest I've felt since those nights by my father's side at the helm of our boat, like knowing I was enough for him, enough for Penny, knowing I am a welcome addition. Knowing we both know the day is ending is making me want to savor every second like the most precious chocolate on my tongue.

Eventually, it is time. We climb back into the boat in the sinking sunlight and ride silently back to my doom, back to reality, out of this bliss. Ending a day that feels so free and wild and good to me usually means ending in punishment.

There is no way to live a day full and free like this one and walk away unscathed. There must be a catch. I had to be hours late, I had to have broken some rule or other-- aside from the beer, although I'd only had one.

The beer had been more about popping the top and the hiss and the coldness against my thighs and the boy tossing me one out of the cooler than about the drinking of it. Like I was his, like I had been there forever, and he knew what I wanted, and liked being able to give it to me.

Suddenly here is the store, projecting out of the marina, marking the spot where the fantasy would end and real life would collide with it. Here is Oliver, reluctantly tying up the boat. Penny climbs over the side and runs down the dock. It had been a brilliant day for her and I'd enjoyed her company, not shirking my duty entirely, while still soaking in all of the life that Oliver radiated, humming.

We walk together and he reaches for me. With the thumb of one hand. My life stops, my breath catches ragged in my throat, he is touching me. The boards of the dock fall away as we continue to move, even though he is touching me.  And not because he is handing me something, but because he has reached for me. It is real. I hadn't imagined it.

Easing my loss by working with the horses for the afternoon in Oregon 1984. 

The thick, rough pad of his thumb travels loosely and with tenderness and regret along my palm and across my wrist in this moment. The sun comes through the tall pines, people carrying crap out of their boats, kids whining, sunburned and annoyed and slightly drunk, parents slogging their way to the minivans, trucks backed down the boat ramps and Oliver is touching me.

His hand falls away and it occurrs to me too late that I should have told him with my body that I wanted that, that I needed that, that now that it was done, if I could just stand in that spot and replay that moment with aching thrill over and over again, I'd grow old and die on the spot.

We walk next to each other, I feel like I must be eighteen or twenty at least. Suddenly, it is over.We had lived an entire love affair in that one touch, an entire unlikely day in the making.

This boy, who drove up in a boat at the moment he did, my parents choosing this marina randomly, Penny making her appearance and pulling me to the dock, my parents leaving... this seemingly random chance meeting of someone who vibrated me to my core. How could I leave? How could it be done? How could it be over? 

If something felt like this, shouldn't the world stop and make it possible to feel it again? Shouldn't we have a meeting to figure out how I could live here, work on the dock, learn a new trade and devour this moment over and over again?

We get to the end of the dock and Oliver sits down across from me. He is going to wait. He doesn't want it to end either and now that the end is so close, there is no consequence to admitting it. We stare openly and longingly at each other. Safe in doing so because we both know there is no cure.

Penny comes outside and plays under the table, waiting with us. They are late. They are never late. An hour at least we sit there, unable to do anything about this growing, insane aching want inside, because his parents are inside, his sister is under the table, and my parents will pull up any minute. We are captive of their whim, we are children, we cannot say no, I don't want to go. I choose to stay.

In any minute of the next sixty, my world might end. And so we sit in breathless understanding that were we older, were we alone, his thumb would brush my chin, his fingers would go into my hair, his palms would trace my burning shoulders, I would wear his sweatshirt as the light faded and he would kiss me.

My toes squirm under him, his under me, we sit on each others feet, as intimate as we can be and look casual to the rest of the world. Feeling all the want that is present, and holding it, wondering how long it can be sustained. I pull his love off of his feet, I sit there and feel it radiate into me, all this unspoken desire that I can hear as clearly as if he is speaking words.

"I wish you didn't have to go," he says, finally. His eyes are up, open and bold when he says it. He does not look away.

Only that. The most beautiful sentence I've ever heard. I wish you didn't have to go. Confirmation. I am not alone in my longing, I am a worthy playmate, he wishes, just like I do, that there were more. He wonders what would happen if I were the one who ferried the people to their boats while he worked the gas dock.

At just that moment, as I am opening my mouth to tell him I would stay if I could, the RV pulls up. Reality is here. I stand up, Oliver's toe prints on the back of my left thigh, and my heart breaking into a hundred pieces. No one has felt with the ferocity that I feel before or since, I am sure of that.

Oliver stands up abruptly and says, "See ya!" and walks away, as I mount the steps to the RV. Wait, what? Don't go so easily, love it into the nano-second. Why had he been able to walk away?

I knew inside what he'd known when we met-- that I was a leaver. He was already turning his face to tomorrow. And it wasn't worth it to wish, because tomorrow someone else would come and sit on that island wearing his over-sized sweatshirt.

I walk into the RV, hating my parents for picking me up rather than loving them for dropping me off, and I walk, sullen, to the back, pull the curtain shut and watch my heart break in my chest for the first time ever.

I feel it acutely, waves of enormous, wrenching pain, desire and anger, loss and a huge empty hole, I am howling inside at the injustice; I am watching the miles slip away behind the wheels, watching the shadows of the pines cross the road and I know I'll never ever see him again. My love.

And it wasn't that we were soul mates. It wasn't that it was perfect. It was that it held possibility like I'd never experienced and I felt robbed at the loss of the opportunity to have another adventure with him tomorrow and see what it felt like, to the merry detriment of whatever had been planned.

My mother comes back to see what is going on with me. I can only imagine now what the conversation must have been like when I walked into the RV, after having had the best day of my life, and looking like I wanted to commit suicide, unwilling to talk to anyone other than to mumble "You're LATE," with all the force of venom I could muster.

I can't stop myself, my mother is my heart, and here she stands, and I am breaking in a way I did not know was possible. I had no idea this was the consequence of love, and I look at her, lost.

"Oh, honey, what's the matter?" she asks, eying the pages and pages of writing scattered all over the bed in the back of the RV. I'd been spilling my guts, trying to get it all out to ease the pain and make myself understood. If only he could read it, he would know I didn't want to take him or own him or keep him, I just wanted to stand next to him and feel this thing, whatever it was, grow like a tsunami in me.

I look at her. "I loved him, mom." I sob, for the first time in my interminable fourteen years. Understanding breaks over her face, and I flinch, waiting. Puppy love, silliness.

She gathers me in her arms and hugs me true, and whispers into my hair, somehow understanding that this was real and deep and honest, "Oh, baby. I'm so sorry. I didn't know." And she let it be true, and she let my heart break as it should from a love so large.

Eventually, Oliver faded from my memory, but even now, my body still wants the water and those magic words, "I wish you didn't have to go."

Monday, June 21, 2010

Meeting with William Morris and Harper Collins!

The Aspen Writer's Foundation is having its summer words festival this week! I would love to attend every single moment of it, but it costs quite a bit of money. I looked longingly at the professional consultations parts of the program, which are $35 for 15 minutes, and you only get them AFTER you apply and are approved.

What an amazing way to get a break. I have all these projects that need an agent or an editor, and a stack of books called "How to get an agent for your children's book" and "Your guide to turning your Blog into a novel."

They are all at least five hundred pages long, and having worked at a talent agency, I know how slim the chances are that any stack of paper will ever make it through to someone that can actually do something with it. I know its possible, but I also know first hand, having worked the circular file, just how much attention your material actually gets.

So I wrote them an email last week, well past the May 22 deadline, just to see if they had any open spots, because now I have $35.

And they did. And they gave me three of them. Two agents and an editor. And then they wanted a manuscript! And I thought, oh, shit, I have material for sure but its EVERYWHERE!

Meanwhile, Bodhi and I have been telling stories and slacklining a lot together. Suddenly, last week, I was telling him a story, and he stopped me.

"Mom, this is a good story." he told me.

"Thanks!" I said, pleased that he liked it. He likes pretty much any story, but he was really into this one.

"You should go inside and write it down because you always forget the stories you tell after you say them out loud."

I kid you not. He said this to me. So I went in and then I spent a few days writing this story, and when I got stuck, I went outside with Bodhi and went slacklining, and he laid on my tummy in the grass and we worked on the story together.

The result, turned in tonight for the consideration of William Morris and Harper Collins, along with 220 other pages of material, is here, should you care to read it.

Its called The Boy Who Lived in the Wind.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Brief Hiatus

Hello, Gentle Reader!

This is just a quick note to tell you that I am going on a BRIEF hiatus, as I am desperately pulling together my work and resume because I'm (gulp) meeting with two agents and an editor at the Aspen Writer's Foundation professional consultations next week!

Cross your fingers, I'll be bringing them my articles, the contents of my blog, and two children's books. I'll keep y'all posted!

While I have about a dozen posts I'm dying to write, I can't guarantee I'll get to any of them before I have the meetings on Wednesday and Thursday, so if I don't talk to you until then, thanks for reading and see you soon!!


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Out for Adventure!

What are you doing this Thursday night? How about coming out to Denver to support an incredible program? Chris Anthony will be MCing the Out for Adventure fund raiser for the Children's Hospital Sports Program.

This is a program that gets kids skiing and snowboarding, sliding on the hill, helping them believe in themselves, opening doors for them to do things that otherwise would not even be possible. This program empowers kids with conditions like Cerebral Palsy to get out and experience what its like to feel freedom on skis.

Please, come join Chris and the friends of the Hospital, have an amazing and fun evening, and help support an incredible cause!

About the Sports Program:

The Hospital Sports Program helps kids find a new kind of courage on the slopes

"For Jackie, it can be hard to walk a block without pain," explains her dad. "So when she said she wanted to ski, I was worried. She has cerebral palsy. She can trip over uneven carpet fiber just crossing the room. But on the mountain, she's free. It's beautiful to watch her. And she just loves it."

Seventeen year-old Jackie smiles and adds, "The best part is the confidence I get looking back up what I just skied down. It's usually steep. And then I feel like I can do anything." And when her dad says, "I didn't think she could make it down. But now I see she's capable of a lot more than we thought. This is who she is, this is what she does," they both smile.
Kids find freedom from physical challenges

And that's huge. Because for the 60 or so kids who ski, snowboard or sit ski with The Children's Hospital Sports Program (TCH HSP) each season, the list of what they can't do can be long. TCH HSP gives kids with physical disabilities-cancer, amputations, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, head and spinal cord injuries-the chance to cross a few things off that list.

On Saturdays throughout the ski season, these kids and a team of volunteers hit the slopes at Winter Park under the tutelage of the National Sports Center for the Disabled. According to one mom, the first accomplishment of TCH HSP is giving kids the chance "to do something fun for a whole day, without mom and dad following them around, smothering them." So why do these often protective parents trust TCH HSP to take their kids skiing?
Our parents and families trust The Children's Hospital

Knowing their kids are skiing with The Children's Hospital is a big part of it. Our program, possibly the very first in the nation for kids with physical disabilities, began over 40 years ago. Today, there are programs all over the world based on our model.

For more of this article, click HERE.

About the event:
Join us on Thursday, June 17th at the Mile High Station for a night out supporting The Children’s Hospital Sports Program (HSP).

The benefit will be held at the Mile High Station near Invesco Field. Each ticket includes a wide variety of wine, local Wynkoop beer, and exquisite food.

With a special guest, sports themed fashion show, silent auction, emceed by Chris Anthony (Warren Miller Films) and Jamie Kim (reporter for Channel 9 News) and DJ Chris Cockroft there will be no shortage of entertainment.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

6:30pm - 11:00pm

Mile High Station

2027 West Lower Colfax Avenue

Denver, CO

RSVP or ask questions HERE.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The falls in Ouray pass

Ethan and I drove from Aspen to Durango together last week to drop him off at camp. I have a bunch of AMAZING pictures from the drive, but here is a video we took from the top of the pass in Ouray. Absolutely amazing. The little speck on the left throwing rocks in the river and sitting as absolutely still as I asked him to is Ethan.

Who installed the decision making software in YOUR brain?

A friend and I went for a walk today along the Rio Grande trail in Aspen. It was a lovely walk, and as usual, we fell into conversation that eventually wound around to talking about life, our goals, our happiness, our plans.

While we were talking, we started to talk about how much it costs to be a ski instructor. There are dues, clinic fees, exam fees, tryout fees, travel fees, she spends thousands of dollars a year in training.

I mentioned to my friend that at that moment, there is a decision process here. At some point, you have to decide if what it costs to apply for this job is worth interviewing for the job. If at some point the cost outweighs your desire to interview, then you are right, its not worth it. If you still want to interview even though it costs a prohibitive amount of money, you will find a way to find the money and get there.

It reminded me about the post I wrote about boundaries. At some point, even though you THINK you want to be involved in something, you may even feel SURE you want to be involved in it, there may come a time when you realize you have reached a boundary, one you thought was further out than it is.

It is smart, it is important, it is wise to be aware of these boundaries and to listen to them. If we don't listen, we tend to loose our sense of self preservation and just push through, sometimes right off the edge of a cliff. You saw the sign, you ignored it, you pushed through anyway, and the consequences are dire.

Sometimes, its important to look very carefully at those boundaries. Why are they there? Who put them there? Are you sure that obeying that boundary is in your best interest, or are you doing what society tell you is normal and right to do?

My friend asked me, "Kate, do you have any boundaries like this? Because it doesn't seem like you do."

Here is what I told her.

I am absolutely dedicated to the pursuit of becoming. My goal in my life is to perform to my potential as a human. To become who I might become, to remove impediments on the path to becoming.

Skiing is an avenue that I'm walking down while I'm becoming, but it could have been anything, it could have been fly fishing or painting, or under water basket weaving. I am very careful about looking at the boundaries I bump up against and checking to see why they are there. Am I not doing something because of fear? And if so, why is that fear there? Is this fear something I need to confront and move through? Or is this fear an indicator I should listen to?

Seven years ago, I did the scariest thing I think I will ever do in my life. Seven years ago, I faced a boundary of fear that I had shied away from dozens of times when I was growing up.

My stepfather was an incredibly frightening, abusive man. He terrorized my two sisters and I for twenty six years. During those years of abuse, I learned a lot of ways to keep myself safe. When I couldn't keep my body safe, I left my body and kept my mind safe. Our minds are amazing at coping, at creating little work arounds.

Seven years ago, when I was pregnant with Bodhi, I made the decision to confront him. To take the abuse we were all living with and make it public. This was scary for a couple of reasons; I wasn't sure what he was going to do. He has a violent and unpredictable temper, I had learned early not to provoke it if I could help it. I was afraid that I was going to lose my mother. I was afraid that she wouldn't believe me, or that if she did, she wouldn't be strong enough to leave him.

I had to decide that those choices were hers, I could not affect anything or anyone other than myself, and I knew I could not let this abuse continue. The tragedy of abuse is that it is a silent cycle of power. Because of fear and shame, its always kept under the rug, and the silence is complacency, which fuels space for the abuser to continue. Eventually, victims become abusers, or marry abusers, and their kids suffer the same fate.

Pregnant with Bodhi, Ethan not yet two years old, I knew it had to stop now. Sexual abuse is about power, not about gender. And I knew that no matter what the cost, I had to protect my kids from him. I would not allow them to become victims, I would not hobble their potential as people because I was to afraid to tell someone in my life that he could not touch me that way. That my body was my body. I could not fail my children that way.

I lived with fear for several weeks after I made the decision to confront him. I had to tell myself that it was appropriate that I feel fear, because this was a scary situation. When the day finally came and I drove with my husband to the therapist's office where my step father was going to be, I was more afraid than I have ever been. But I also knew that feeling that fear did not mean that this was something I should not do. It meant that this was a scary thing to do. In fact, the scarier it felt in my core, the more I knew I needed to do it, because I knew that fear that I felt was his, not mine. It was something I was taught to feel about him, by him. And I didn't want to be ruled by it any more, and I never wanted my kids to feel it.

After I went through that experience, I embarked on a mission to see what other things I felt fear about because of him. What decisions was I making based on lessons taught by this controlling, fear filled, abusive man?

At first, I went after them like a rabid detective. I wanted him out of me in every way. I wanted to be rid of him through to my soul. Of course, that is an impossible exorcism, I have lots of things in me that I learned from him that are good. I have a strong work ethic because of him. I can control my fear because of him, I can tolerate pain because of him, I can pitch a business plan because of him. I learned that there are no excuses and responsibility ALWAYS rests on me because of him. I learned to take responsibility, face the music, and walk towards the thing that scares me because of him.

But I had an unhealthy will to win because of him. I had a sabotaging tendency because of him. I believed I was horribly ugly because of him, I did not believe in myself because of him. I believed I could never be good enough, that I was unlovable and born to fail because of him. I hated myself because of him.

You can see that it is easy to say Because of Him. Its easy to fall into the role, to say, ah, I had a hard childhood, and because of that, someone owes me something. Someone else needs to love me the way that he should have. Someone else needs to take care of me to heal this wound.

Believing that is part of being swallowed by your past. It is another excuse, it is playing into your abusers hand, it is your abuser continuing to dictate your life, how it unfolds and what your potential is.

As I discovered that, I got angry. I didn't want even passive decision making by him in my head. And so, rather than placing blame, and becoming a victim of having been a victim, I got to work. For a while after you go through something like a confrontation with a person who is abusive, your abuse defines you. Its hard not to talk about it all the time. Its hard not to see everything through the lens of either the abuse or your struggle to survive. But with time and patience and practice, your abuse, your relationship with the person who abused you (and by this, I mean the way you think of them in your life and how much control they still have over you), fades and changes.

My abuse I see as a fact, like I have blond hair (well, now I'm getting Grey hair, but don't tell anyone.) When it seems apropos, I bring it up, because becoming silent about it again gives it power again. And so its a thing that happened in my life. I'm not angry about it any more. I don't hate my step father. I understand that he became who he is becuse he did NOT break this cycle in his own life. Someone obviously hurt him badly. He is a picture of what I could become. He is a picture of what happens when you let your coping and your abusers fear dictate the decisions you make in your life. When you don't do the work to ferret out root impetus, motivation, when you aren't willing to, for lack of a better word, look at your shit, you run the risk of becoming a person like this. A person driven to do things with no logical purpose, a person driven by passion and fear, a person running on the auto pilot installed by their abuser, and having no idea that its happening.

I don't worry or obsess about the abuse in my life. But it certainly was a powerful factor that shaped my life significantly, and continues to do so, because it drives me to become who I would have been, and who I can be now, had he never come in contact with me, and in spite of the fact that he did.

I bring it up here, because I answered my friend's question with a bit of that history, and then I told her; after I did the scariest thing I've ever done in my life, I wanted to be certain that any boundaries I felt were boundaries or rules that I agrees with. That were there for healthy reasons. I didn't just not want to abide by abstract rules of conduct installed by my step father, or all the coping I had learned to survive, but I didn't' want to abide by rules imposed by other people's fears in general.

Its like living in a pen or a corral and bumping up against the wall, and saying, oh, I shouldn't go out there. Well, why not? Because there is a fence here. Well, why is the fence here? Who put it there? Who says outside the fence is bad? Who is telling you to stay inside, and what is their motivation?

For years, my mother cut the end off of a ham before she cooked it. I always assumed that she cut it off for a reason, that had to do with basting or juices, I assumed that this is how you cook a ham. One day, I found out that she cut the end off the ham because that's how her mother had always done it. And then I found out that her mother cut the end off the ham because the ham wouldn't fit in their baking dish. There's no reason for me to do it. There's no reason for my mom to do it.

People live their lives trapped by convention and tradition, not that those things are bad, but have you examined why they are there? Just because its always been done that way, or it hasn't been done yet doesn't mean its not worth doing differently or its not worth trying to do!

What I told my friend was that I am just not willing, ever again, to look at a boundary that I bump into and blindly follow it. I look to make sure that I am not endangering myself, my kids, my family, I look to see what the risk is, what the possible result could be, and then, more often than not, I remove my fear and give it a try.

I realized, after I broke free of 26 years of fear and dictatorial rule by a deeply disturbed man that most of us walk around afraid of change, because the unknown is truly frightening. What would happen if I told the truth? Would my world fall apart? Would I loose my mother? Would I get beaten, or killed? Would my children get taken away? What about my PTSD? Would it get so bad that I would have to be hospitalized? Would I lose my kids because of that? Could I survive this?

The answer, quite simply, is yes. You can survive. There is life on the other side. Life on the other side not only of abuse, but of being broke, of being divorced, of being depressed, of being overweight. There is the life you choose to make. It is a life lived not carelessly, but in spite of fear. It is a life that you deserve, the life that we all deserve.

My friend asked me that question, because it costs a lot of money to walk down this path, that of trying out for the National Alpine Team, and there is very little chance that anyone will make it. But I'm not doing it for the paycheck. I could care less. There is a very nice tee pee here on T Lazy 7 that we can live in very cheap, and my kids like camping. We will be just fine.

Thats not to say I'm going to put us into financial ruin in pursuit of my goals, (you can't be a whole lot more broke than we are right now), but that I'm not afraid of it. because I know there is work out there. I know there is money to be made. I know my kids don't need TV or toys, they have the rivers and the horses and the mountains and the slack line and the other kids on the ranch to play with.

I know that making the safe choice, the choice with the predictable end is a choice that feels akin to death to me.

Now, when I face problems like, I want to go to Portillo this summer, but I don't have enough money, and if I do raise the money, are all my bills paid before I go, and who am I taxing in order to take this chance, an investment in my new path, trusting it will pay off later in things to write about, in relationships built, in training of my feet, in expansion of my understanding of history of the ski world? I think to myself, this is not a boundary that is going to hold me back.

This is an opportunity to work hard to make it happen. And it will either materialize, or it won't. Most of the time, if it does materialize, its not till the very last second, because I'm not in a place in my life where I can book things six months in advance, there is just too much uncertainty about whether it is safe to do it. That's me listening to a boundary. Until I know that I've met my responsibilities to my kids and my mom, who takes amazing care of all of us, I can't make a commitment like that. This drives people crazy, including me, and is something that I am working on changing, by working on increasing our bank account, and looking for creative ways to reduce costs, like getting an article approved ahead of time, and an expense account to help pay for a trip.

Whistler. Hood. Portillo. St. Anton, Italy (where I hope to find Stephano DeBenedetti and interview him, or have coffee with him, or go for a hike with him...). These are opportunities that could change my life. These are things that scare my friend because they are big choices in a life on a financial tightrope. But oh, if I can go. And OH! If I could take Ethan to Hood and take my mom and my kids to St. Anton for Interski... what an incredible journey it would be.

I choose to keep dreaming and to look at the thing that scares me, whether its a person, a thought, a steep pitch, or telling the truth to a friend, and walk right at it. Because I have a lot of becoming still to do.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A lovely Ski in June

Kurt and I headed up to Independence Pass for a quick ski yesterday. It had snowed the night before about six inches, and had been at freezing temps for two days up there, so we knew we had the possibility of some good skiing. He had gone up the day before with our friend Mike, and I was supposed to go with them. For the first time, I think EVER, I called the morning of and begged off because I was too tired. I slept sooo late, and then went on a hike with Bodhi out into our hills. I got a little sliding in, but it wasn't the ski I'd been hoping for with Kurt and Mike. Ah well. Better to be smart about being so tired.

I also had to go into training at Remede (one of the spas I work at in town)at one, and I didn't want to be delirious with tiredness and unable to pay attention.

I'm not sure whats going on, but I'm listening to my body. For some reason, its wanting naps and I'm not sleeping as well as I have been. I think that I slowed down so much after I got my shots (as is appropriate) that I just don't have the energy that I did when i was working out hard. Its a tough cycle, it takes energy to make energy. So I'm doing that balancing act, walking back toward fitness without killing myself on the way there.

This little ski was just the thing. A short hike up the spine and skin to the top of a little pitch, I did two laps and Kurt did three. We've spent enough time in the back country together, that its very comforting to be able to get out there together, and yet be able to work separately.

I'm used to seeing Kurt way off in the distance on some of our climbs, I follow the skin track and work on picking the line on the way up, see if his track goes where I would have chosen, try to deduce why he picked the line he did, and take the time to climb into my mind and have a look around.

I was slow, but I wasn't dying. I was about 3/4 of the way to the top when Kurt finished his change over and came skiing happily by me without his pack. I waved. "See you on the top in a minute." he said.

I smiled and trucked on up to the top, switched over, we had cloud cover so I wasn't that worried about the snow changing and going quickly, had a quick snack and left an apple for Kurt in the snow by his pack. I figured I'd head down and ski by him when he was about 1/2 way up.

I turned around. He was three feet from me, sweating and smiling. "Hi." he said. He'd managed, in the time it took me to go 1/4 of the way, change over and eat my snack, to ski the entire pitch, change over, and sprint back up it.

"Um. Hi." I said. Okay. I want to be that fit. And I have some idea of what it takes to get there. And I'm not sure its possible for me, but I'm going to do everything I can. He skis as well as he does in part because he is just so incredibly fit. Its time for me to get to work.

We skied that pitch together, a nice steep shot, and talked about all kinds of things from the history of religion in politics to tactics for staying warm at the tryout when you have to stand around (we were waiting for the sun to come out when that one came up).

We hiked up for another lap and talked about the Cloud of Confusion, how in pursuit of understanding, information tends to get over complicated. Something has changed in my skiing, and in my understanding of what I'm trying to do on the ski (stand on it.) and in my understanding of what I want the ski to do (curl around my foot and turn). and of my understanding of how to ask it to do that. (stand on it.)

It was a beautiful day, we were down by 11, with the rest of the day to play with Bodhi up in our drainage ditch, his very own little river.

Getting to a Goal

To get somewhere, you've gotta plan. You wouldn't go on a backpacking trip without checking that you have everything you need, planing your route, checking the weather, organizing transportation, and letting the people in your life know you will be gone. If it was a big hike, you might even hike a little extra for a few months so your body felt strong enough to tackle the task ahead.

This is how I feel about trying out for the team. Originaly, the idea of trying out was really just an excuse to get the trainers to take me seriously, when I train at anything, I really like to be focused and work hard. I am happier in an environment where I'm being challenged mentally and physically to my max. That's not to say skipping any levels, or trying to tackle advanced concepts when what I need is a grasp of the basics, that's to say that while working toward grasping the basics, I like to work hard.

Eventually, I realized that I really did see the team as a dream job, that being able to reach as many people as possible and work with them on unlocking the things that were keeping them from asking their feet to do what they wanted them to do would be a life fulfilling job for me. A soul job.

Originally, I started writing my blog so that my mom and my sisters could keep track of me, we all lived in different cities, and we are very close. When I started skiing, I moved into a world that they didn't know anything about. One day, my sister was out visiting for Thanksgiving, and she showed me how to blog.

Eventually, other people started reading the blog, too, and I realized that I was not alone, that there are so many of us who want to become better. Better people, better moms, better friends, better coaches, better skiers. We have become a community of people who are striving, every day, to do what we love, to live our lives with integrity which includes honoring the voice inside that says, I wish I was the kind of person that liked to hike. I wish I was the kind of person who played outside with their kid. And then taking the risk of making that change, and really living the life you love.

Over the course of the last four seasons, the goal of the tryout has stayed with me, its not the thing that drives me, but its the thing that keeps me true. Its that signpost. I'm an easily distracted person. I always have been. I've bounced from career to career, all of which I've loved, art, acting, skating, climbing, cooking, cloth diaper making mom... I get seized by a new idea and its easy for me to love the conception part and get bored with the follow through.

This is one reason why having a goal that is hard to reach, (very very hard to reach) is so important to me. It might not be the right thing for someone else, having a goal that is, as some would say, impossible, might be discouraging or distracting to them, or all consuming.

One of the things that I love to do in my life is performance coaching. I, believe it or not, am a planner. But I'm sort of an esoteric planner. I'm not great at planning the details of everyday life. But I love to work with a client to help them make a path to achieve a goal.

This is the first time that I've used my performance coaching model on myself in an athletic pursuit, and its an interesting experience.

When I start working with a new client, the first thing I ask them is, what's your goal? Most people have many, but for the purposes of clear impetus, we choose just one. Mine is to be a viable candidate for the 2012 National Alpine Team.

The next thing I ask them is why? What motivates you? Because your motivation needs to be healthy, clean, and true. If you are motivated, driven to succeed by a coping mechanism, for instance, I want to win a gold medal because I hope that I will prove to my parents that I have worth and am worth loving, you aren't going to go very far. And if you are one of the few who manages to actually "make it" with a motivation like that, odds are you won't be very happy when you get there, and you won't stay there long.

I believe that longevity in success (success being being happy and satisfied, with a feeling of goodwill and contentment) has SO much to do with what motivates us to succeed.

Often times, I will work with a client for a long time on the why before we ever even walk towards the how.

Sometimes, its hard to look at your motivation, because you want your goal so badly. The taste of victory, the idea of winning respect, or love, or pride, for yourself or from others, can be seductive. But it is a hollow motivation that will abandon you when you need your motivation most.

In your journey toward success, it is inevitable that you will meet naysayers. There are all kinds of bumper stickers and sayings that show this happening all around us, just today I saw "Those who abandon their dreams will seek to destroy yours." I believe this can be true. I believe that we are mirrors for each other, and that often when someone around us is succeeding, it is painful for those who are motivated by something less than healthy to watch. They tend to feel threatened, they look for reasons why you should not be doing what you are doing, they don't look deeply, ask questions, or come from a compassionate place.

We can be that person to ourselves just as easily. We can be judgemental, and mean, and less than compassionate to ourselves without even knowing it. The sabotage factor. The fear of success. So many of us say we want to be succesful, but that idea of the Will to Win, that idea of wanting the Win, of seeing ourselves on the victory lap, often jumps right over what it is that it TAKES to get there.

And the first, most fundamental piece of that is WHY. Why do you want to do this?

I often tell my clients, you may not like what you see when I ask you that question. If that's the case, don't turn your face away from the answer, look right at it. Walking towards that motivation, gently, and unpackaging it, is a very powerful step toward your goal. Knowing that you come from a place that is not of integrity (to yourself) or strength, and ignoring it because you want the prize is a strong indicator that when you hit a bump on your journey, like the bump of running into a naysayer, you will lean on your motivation, your own self for help, and that support of what drives you had better be solid, strong and healthy. If its not, chances are you will fall into a very lonely place, get way off track, and find yourself in the unenviable position of having to start all over again every six weeks or so.

The next thing I tell them is that you can keep your goal, and even work toward it, while you are searching for a healthier motivation. You don't have to abandon your goal because you are driven to succeed by some old pattern in your life.

In fact working toward your goald while you are examining your motivation and searching for a strong foundation is a great way to practice staying focused even when you are not well supported. Because believe me, along your journey at some point, you are going to need that skill.

For me, originaly, I wanted to have the goal of trying out for the team because I wanted to go through the process of training for the team. I liked the idea of how much my skiing would improve if I trained in that manner. I love the repeition of hard work, I find it medatative, and I find myself frustrated and unable to focus when i have unspecific, vague paramiters for training. I am not disciplined enough to work "as needed" and get anywhere, I get distracted and move onto the next thing.

Over time, the motivation changed, I wanted the job of team member because I wanted to be able to travel and teach all over the country, I like the idea of dragging ideas across division lines, and I loved the idea of teaching teachers. I love the idea of lighting people on fire, of remotivating them, of helping them find the thing that makes them feel most like they are contributing or doing their job well.

Knowing that motivation, and settling into it, I was able to make a roadmap of things I needed to do to get there. Along the way, one of those things was to let go of the goal.

People asked me quite a bit if I could remove the goal and just ski, if I could not talk about the steps and the small landmarks along the way. I was frustrated at this for a while, because while I know that letting go is key to becoming whole, I was not ready in my journey to get to that point yet. My skiing wasn't where I needed it to be, my understanding wasn't where I needed it to be.

But this year was the year. Keeping the signpost of the goal, I let go of needing to tick way points on my journey off the list. I had some ideas that I'd like to do TA for both Rocky Mountain and PSIA this year, so that I could sit the E1 next year, so I would have been teaching at that level for two years before the try out.

But I realized that those things are not necessarily things that are required to be on my resume to be a viable candidate at the tryout. So this was the year to let go, and work on finding my way in my new home in Aspen, feeling my feet, working hard, and growing in other ways.

Now, things are changing again.

The next thing I have my clients do when we make a performance plan is to make a list of Impediments. What are all the things that can keep you from achieving your goal? My list looked like this:

My skiing is not good

So those are some pretty significant impediments. Across from the impediment, we make a list of solutions for each impediment:

Move to a ski school that pays more.
Reduce travel to training by moving somewhere with the training you want.
Get a second job that pays well but does not distract from skiing.
Pursue sponsorship opportunities to reduce outgoing money.

Because I can't change my age, I decided that I could change how prepared I am. I can make sure that even though I will be older than the average first time candidate, I can also be more prepared.

I made a list of things that would help mitigate the age factor:
Cardio and core strength
Attend a tryout and watch and be involved as much as possible

and so on.

We then take the prioritize removing the impediments. As much as I'd like to go to Pilates class twice a week to get core strength of doom, I can't afford it, so the money factor is keeping me from removing other impediments. Therefore, we tackle money first, while doing everything we can to support the other pieces. Sit-ups on the floor at home will do for now, and is moving in the positive direction of attaining the goal, while I work on money.

And so here we are. Its time for me to examine my performance plan and make sure that I am working diligently toward my goal. Why? Because I want to get there! I'm looking forward to trying out, and I can only be as strong a candidate as I can be if I continue to do things that support that starting now.

And... its coming sooner that we all think it is. Rocky Mountain Divisional tryouts are in 11 months. If I was 11 months away from a National qualifier in skating, I'd be living at the training center and living a very specific, detailed, carefully planned life all aimed at having the highest chance for performing to my potential on the day it matters most.

Luckily, training toward this goal does not pull me away from doing a good job at my job. The job I'm applying for as a candidate for the National Team is the job of excellent teacher, with a depth of knowledge that allows me to communicated concepts VERY clearly to any kind of student, the ability to inspire and excite your students, and the feet to demonstrate the skills you are looking for well.

To that end, I have a new trainer. I've asked someone who is a bit of a hard-ass, a pragmatic, practical person if they would help me train. He has agreed. He has agreed to hold me accountable in a direct way. Not unfriendly, but clear and specific. Nothing about this is about protecting my feelings or ego. I have a job, to make a strong body. He has a job, to call me on any bullshit and ask me to have a higher level of commitment. The bar has been raised.

We are working on making a body this summer that is strong and balanced in a way that allows my fitness to be an asset rather than a detriment to my skiing. A null to positive factor.

The last two years of this project begins now.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Next Step

There's a lot going on here in paradise at the T Lazy 7 ranch in Aspen, Colorado! It has been an amazing off-season, with plenty of spring cleaning. My mom is kind of an organizational whiz, and as soon as the snow melted, she got started.

A friend of mine is up here working as a handyman, and she's got him building shelves all over the place. Even in my room.

This is kind of a monumental event for me, I know it seems silly, because what's the big deal, its a closet!

But here's the big deal: organization is important. Especially as training intensifies. We are a year away from regional tryouts. One phase of this project is ending, the next is beginning. Theoretical commitment to a five year goal is one thing. 11 months to the first cut means its time to put all that theory into practice. I've spent three years laying a foundation alongside a bunch of other people who are working toward the same goal, or who dedicate their time towards helping us all improve.

Its time to have ironed out the kinks. Its time for the training and the life balance to flow together. Its time to soul ski.

I have a short list of the things that may impede me from working most efficiently; things that may block my ability to learn, or disrupt how efficient I can be with my time.

The top thing on that list? Organization. With my calendar, with my money, with my gear, with my clothes, with my bills, with my clients, with my kids, workflow, time management, and on and on.

The problem is... its expensive to get organized. I've been doing my best over the last four years as I've moved four times, three of those with my kids, and we've been in cramped quarters, with no good computer, no shelving, no storage, no workspace. Its been really hard.

Couple that with the fact that I'm not great at staying on top of the details, because I spend so much of my time generating projects, its hard to complete them. Once I get on track with one, its easy to stay with it, but budgeting my time so that that project doesn't come at the expense of having all the paperwork filled out for Ethan's camp and that my car gets registered before the 16th, and the paperwork for the divorce is still moving along...

My little sister has an amazing AMAZING work flow business called "Untangling the Ball" where she shows people VERY simply, how to never ever forget anything, without any lists, piles, or filing. Its incredible. I've been through her seminar twice, and I am ITCHING to transfer over to the system. She is very patient, and works through using the system with you once a week until you get it, or as needed, she does it over Skype, and so the daunting seems possible. She's done it for a bunch of people, including the City of Salt Lake. (If you are curious about this, leave a comment, she reads my blog and can give you her contact information. Its phenomenal, I kid you not.)

My problem to this point has been that my inbox, my desk is so out of control that it will take me a week of dedicated practice and time to transfer over to the system. As SOON as I do it, my life will be easier, and so will the lives of people I work with and play with, because I won't forget stuff.

The other issue has been that if I have $100, I can't spend it on a bookshelf. I don't have a budgeting issue right now, because my priorities with money are so very clear. There is so little money, that its very basic. Which, in a way, is great. I am learning from square one, and my kids are learning with me. I don't mind being broke, for those reasons. I think I'm learning some pretty valuable lessons about possessions, and want and desire, consuming, and living within my means.

But it would be nice to have a bookshelf. Even if its a board propped up with bricks. Which I've done. Or milk crates, which I've also done.

So my mom gets in the swing of things here, and she hires my friend to come out to the ranch and work on some stuff. Suddenly, this huge pile of boxes that was in this lovely closet is my dedicated gear closet. Its full of shelves. She's telling him, put some hooks all over so she can hang her backpacks. Make sure she has room for all her gear, so she can sort it and take care of it well, so its easy to use and not in a pile.

And now, suddenly, I have this closet. Its simple, the whole thing is three extra shelves and a bunch of hooks, nothing fancy, but its done something to me. Suddenly, I'm organized. Suddenly, I feel possibility as I step forward, this feels like a fresh page, like a spring board. Isn't that silly?

My backpacks are hanging on the wall and my hats and goggles are separated in boxes. I have a space that is just mine, for the first time in a very long time, no one is going to move things, or box things up to make space for other more important things, or put more stuff in there with my things. I can put stuff in here and go away, and when I come back, it will look just how I left it. I can count on finding the things I am looking for as long as I put them in their dedicated space. And OH YES, I'm gonna label those shelves. I can't wait.

I feel suddenly hugely empowered to take control of some of the other aspects in my life.

I wonder how many other things in my life could have this kind of profound effect with little effort? What if I had I walked down to the scrap heap and borrowed a saw and ripped some of these boards and put them up myself months ago? I'm not berating myself that I didn't, but I do know that I chose not to. I do know that I thought that getting that closet organized was beyond my financial and time constraints.

And now I know that if I'd spent a week on it myself, I could have done it. So NOW, I'm looking around for things I can do, perhaps in a non traditional way, to free myself a little more, so the wheels spin free.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Karin Chekidra

I was thinking all night about what it was like to pain the amazing Karin, so I dug up two pieces I did of her. They both took about two and a half hours, she is so easy to paint, looking at her, the color mixes itself. I always felt as I was painting her that her energy was making the painting and I was just watching. What a beautiful muse. I miss working with her, I know her adventure is just getting grander!

You can also find her in some of my mentor's work, Mark Strickland.

Karin just sent me this last picture of my studio... the painting of the new mama nursing was one of my favorites but was completely destroyed in the fire, along with more than 40 other pieces.

180 Degrees South is out on DVD!

Buy it and "quit your job" as Outside Magazine says. An awesome movie.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Choose your own adventure

Arne Backstrom flies through the air.

As I was writing the post about my adventure up Snowking with Pepi, I saw a tweet go by on my TweetDeck about Arne Backstrom. The report on his accident came out, and I took a moment to go and read it.

Reading the report led me to thinking more of the hope he had in going to Peru. He was on a month long ski mountaineering trip, and this climb was an acclimatization peak after establishing base camp.

I thought about what it would be like to be the kind of person that could dream up a trip like that, have the passion and the will and the skill to go out into the mountains and live from a remote tent for a month, skiing unclimbed peaks, loving the mountains, blissing on the sky and the snow and the friendships and the solitude. Asking yourself to push hard to do something, to try something, to keep climbing, to wonder if the line will go, to make decisions.

I didn't know Arne, but I do know what its like to loose someone unexpectedly. Even when it is expected, death is a strange thing to grapple with for those who are left alive.

Base camp Plaza Argentina, Polish routes Aconcagua

I feel for his sister, his family, the people he skied with, his climbing partners. I had a friend tell me that he could imagine what Arne might have been thinking, the thoughts flashing across his mind when he lost his ski.

This isn't a post about whether he made a good decision to ski the line he skied, or whether taking risk to ski in wild terrain is responsible or not. I believe that question is only answerable by each one of us in each moment. We do the best we can to make smart, healthy choices that let us live our lives fully.

I'm writing because reading the part of the report about Arne and his friends intention to ski mountaineer led me to a mini epiphany. I thought to myself, man, I would love to do that. I would love to go somewhere, on some trip like that. I wish I could be a part of a team that had an idea like that. I was grateful to Arne for inspiring me to think that way. Not because of his death. But because of his life.

And then it hit me, that life isn't about waiting around for your big break. Not in art, not in business, not in skiing. Life is about creating the dream yourself.

The Spiral Jetty, a piece that began with a question; Do we need the white cube of the gallery to make art? Or can I make art anywhere? Robert Smithson sparked the Earthworks movement of the early 70s with this piece and many others.

I thought about painting, which I've been thinking a lot about lately. About how for me, really good work is the effortless amalgam of years of information gathering, sketching, and technical discipline, suddenly, a concept comes, a story or a color or a medium that inspires all kinds of doors to open, and most of the time for me, the best concepts, the best impetus for creation came because I asked a question.

I did a series once on women called Is, Is Not, Is Too. The idea came initially because I was too broke to hire "real" models. I couldn't afford to pay Karin Chekirda $65 (which was her kind price for the very broke at the time, I'm sure she's leagues more expensive than that now.) an hour to sit for me, even if she is the most incredibly inspiring woman I've painted. I needed to practice figurative painting, and I needed willing nudes.

I started asking my friends to sit for me, and while they were nervous, they were willing, and over time, it became a study in something.

I realized that I was observing women interacting without the safety of their costume. Our clothes tell our story for us to some extent. When you walk around in life, you can say, "I'm successful." "I'm conservative" "I'm a free spirit" "I wish I was a free spirit" "I'm not sure who I am." You can even say, "I'm gay." "I may be gay but I'd never tell you" and all kinds of other things with your clothes.

I began to wonder if I took people in my life who were very different from each other, and removed their uniforms, how they would operate when put together, intimately, with no prior introduction, and no clues as to sexual orientation or economic status.

Is, Is Not, Is, Too #26 I asked that question in this series of 47 large paintings, "Laura, this is Shiela, you guys can take these robes into the bathrooms and change. Here's a glass of wine. What kind of music do you guys like?" They'd come out, I'd talk to them briefly about how to sit (things like don't put your weight too heavily on one arm because it will fall asleep and you'll be sitting for 20 minute intervals for three to five hours).

I'd ask them to remove their robes, and I'd watch their energy. None of these women had ever posed nude before, that was one of my most adamant requirements, I was looking at this as a social experiment. Some people became naked defiantly, some shyly, some openly, some questioningly, some with great vulnerability. It was my job to hold space for them, to make my warm studio a safe place for them to be without their armor or uniform and to collide their energies.

I took a gay woman in a committed relationship and posed her with a born again christian college student. I put a wild bi-curious flower child with a mom and an awkward just out of high school athlete. I watched these women take care of each other (for the most part) because they recognized that they were both in a place of fear, and that they had each other, and only each other for the next five hours.

I started to think tonight, thanks to Arne's idea to go ski the mountains of Peru for a month with his friends, that the adventure that I am trying to train toward is maybe the adventure of my own invention. I keep wondering how people come up with the great ideas that they get, to go climb this peak or that, to go wander through these mountains, or to go along this ridge line.

Perhaps the adventure that I am seeing is a question that I need to ask, like hiking Snowking was the result of wanting to hear some stories and history from Pepi.

Right now, the adventures that I can invent are very much in the line of adventures I've heard about other people doing. Just like being in art school and copying the masters, you learn line and color and discipline and composition by making your hand do what theirs did. And then as you grow, as you step outside and being finding your own voice, their influence is there for you to stand on, sometimes its loudly in your work, and sometimes its a nod or an homage, and sometimes, its the gentle breath behind work that is very much your own.

With this in mind, I'm going to begin to look for my own question and see what path unfolds because of it. Thank you, Arne, for the inspiration to choose my own adventure.

Discipline, Austrian Style: Hiking in the Rain with Pepi Stiegler

I first heard of Pepi Stiegler when I went out to Jackson a few years ago. He's a friend of my friend, Jonathan, and we had been hoping to get in a ski tour all together. The timing didn't quite work out on that visit, and this time, as I was driving up to Jackson, I managed to connect once again with Pepi, and we agreed to meet one morning for a hike.

It turns out that its been raining in Jackson for the last three weeks, much to everyone's dismay. My friend Nato, who loaned me not floor space or a couch but a full on honest to god GUEST ROOM, (for which I said thank you with buttery eggs and my favorite pasta for dinner), is sick of bad weather, over skiing, can't golf in the rain, and feels like he lives in Washington State right now (although his garden looks amazing thanks to all the moisture).

I didn't care that it was raining, to be honest, I've been going a little nuts wanting to ski and hike, and I feel a bit rabid if I don't get outside. I have a rain coat, and I hoped that Pepi would be up for meeting anyway even though it rained all night through the night in a torrential deluge which made the rivers rise significantly.

I had seen some of Pepi's skiing in Jon Jay's "Olympic Holiday", a great picture on the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley, where the men's downhill had a hike-in start, and the snow looked like they'd groomed it with a bunch of folks snowplowing old avy debris, it was lumpy and frozen and full of huge chunks of hard snow. The crashes were terrific and terrifying.

Pepi and I met up despite the threatening weather, I was so happy to finally meet him, I'd heard so much about he, and his daughter Resi, who is now recovering from her second knee surgery and is getting ready to go into hard core rehabilitation aimed at getting her back on skis and racing this season.

We hiked from Pepi's house with Natos two dogs, Ruby and Bodi straight up Snowking as the mist turned to drizzle. Pepi is strong and hikes with the regular stride of a confident back country man, despite his 72 years and the fact that he has Multiple Sclerosis to contend with, he is hale and hearty, still every inch the athlete.

Driving over, I hoped that we would have things to talk about, even though we both love to ski, that topic can get easily exhausted, and I was curious where skiing would lead us, what kinds of things we might find to say to each other as we walked along.

As we walked up the trail, the rain increased, and our happiness at being outside amplified. Pepi is easy in his spirit, easy to talk to, and glad to be out and moving around. Every inch the gentleman, he checked in with me frequently to see if I was up for an adventure in the rain, as it began to come down with a purpose when we started into the switchbacks. The rain and the excellent company just made me want to hike more, and we headed up into the clouds with the two dogs loping along ahead of us and not another soul in sight.

We found common ground in our training back grounds, although Pepi lived it at a much higher level than I did, and was a member of the incredibly disciplined Austrian ski team, and we started to chat about discipline in training ski instructors, a topic I feel a bit passionate about.

I believe in hard work and in training with intent to learn as much as I can, to gain a continuously evolving clearer and clearer understanding of every aspect of the sport, whatever that sport may be, including ferreting out your proclivities for blocking learning and removing them.

Pepi told me that he feels that while he loves discipline and comes from a very disciplined environment, that is not what the American public wants, they want FUN.

I told him that I agree, the public wants fun. And it is the instructors job to teach the public how to have the MOST fun. How to be a great skier, how to play in the snow well.

But I also feel that while the public can say, hey, make it fun, the instructors should be lining up for discipline. We shouldn't be whining that its not fun. It is our job to learn and understand the concepts, to dig deeper to ask more, to find the process of discovery and the discipline to train fun in and of itself. To put ourselves in the same position as our clients all the time robs us of a certain level of professional obligation.

Yes, skiing in and of itself is fun. Great trainers can make the hardest work fun, which makes working hard that much easier. But there is something to asking more from ourselves because this is our job. Being willing to get to work, to apply some discipline, to go again and again, to be able to withstand critique and criticism.

I think that being able to understand what our clients want does not remove our obligation to understand our sport and passion to its depths. The season is short. There is work to be done. To have the vast knowledge that we all need in order to communicate well with our clients, we need a modicum of discipline. We need to be willing to get to work. And we need to be able to take the work we've done and translate it into the language of the guest, applying knowledge we have gained through specific, disciplined work, investigation, and training to the every day language of play in the snow.

Pepi and I talked about this, about what it was like to train at an Olympic training center, versus what it is like to take the average PSIA clinic, versus what it is like to be a member of the paying public. We had a wide ranging conversation, which was fascinating, while we tromped up onto the ridge in the pouring rain.

We did acknowledge that perhaps we are coming from a different perspective than many, Pepi made a remark like; "Just two crazy athletes jabbering on about discipline while hiking through freezing rain for hours while everyone else is inside." I noted that they were either smarter than we were or missing out on the lovely sensation of hiking in the rain with good company. Pepi unscrewed his thermos and we enjoyed a mug of steaming milky tea under the umbrella of some pine trees after gaining the small summit.

These days, Pepi is touring more than skiing in-bounds, the footage I've seen of him skiing, in Olympic Holiday and in Dick Barrymore's "Last of the Ski Bums" was all of him hucking himself off of huge cornices in leather boots. Pepi could go big. I love to watch these films, his ability to carry the line without reaching for the landing, his willingness to live in the air is breathtaking.

When the snow flies again, you can bet I'll be knocking on his door. We made some tentative plans to go ski around in the Beartooths next season, and tour around Colorado a bit in the spring as well. Fingers crossed, I have a new ski buddy, we move at about the same pace, and we both like to hike in the rain.

It was an honor and a privilege and a thrill to hike along side him, and even better to realize hes another friend, someone who wants to live his life outside, share it with his kids, kill his tv, and share his tea.