Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Learning to Ski is Like Putting Together a Lego Car Without the Instructions: More Thoughts on Copy, Choose, Create

More than 25 pieces, the first build is always by the book.

My kids save up their allowance and buy little Lego kits that come with about 25 pieces. These tiny kits make up a Lego car, most of the time. I stand there with a handful of Legos, and I look at the box, and I KNOW this makes a car, because I see the picture on the box.

I feel this way lots of times when I'm following someone with real mastery around on my skis. Each of them explains what we are doing differently, each of them expresses the final idea with their own spirit showing through their skiing, but in all of them, the pieces are there.

I watch them ski away, and I think to myself, I see the pieces. I look at my hand. I see all the Legos. I know this makes a car.

Lots of times, I put the pieces together, and I have four or five left over. It looks kind of like a car, I tried to copy the picture, but there is something missing - I have rotation but no speed control; I have speed control but no ski-to-snow contact; I have ski-to-snow contact; but no flexion/extension.

Often on the lift, I flip through the Lego book in my head and go to the last page which shows the exploded view of how it all fits together. I can see the diagnostic, I can see where the piece goes that I was missing.

Most of the time, of course, the piece that I have left over goes in the middle, or in the base, and I have to take the entire freaking car apart to fit in that little, but important piece. Now my rotation matches the distance traveled down the bump, and I have rotary AND speed control, but I'm still lacking ski-to-snow contact.
One of the many ships Bodhi makes from his imaginiation

This place to me feels like the space in between choose and create, it's the space where you are skiing with choice, and seeing how often you are able to chose. Sometimes, it goes well, and you get a moment of freedom when five or six bumps feel like freedom and creation. And then, suddenly, there is a blank space: I don't know how to create in this terrain.

This recently happened to me in Sodbuster, a steep, long, fairly narrow double black bump run. There were sections in which I felt free to ski, speed came with proficiency, in these types of bumps, I could choose, and occasionally have moments where I felt like I was free enough to create.

Suddenly, we came across some bobsled run shaped bumps. I only know how to choose one line in here, i realized. I've spent three years trying to learn not to let the terrain dictate turn shape, but for some reason, I had yet to apply it in this type of terrain.

I asked Schanzy if he could show me several different turns in this situation, trying to free my brain from the prescription that it was wanting to hold on to. I had been skiing three bumps and stopping, trying to find the place where I could choose, but while I could chose on this bump and then that bump, I could not seem to string together any sort of fluid choice.

Schanzy skied away from me, and I watched the creative process, suddenly the prescription crumbled. I was in a place where I could copy, slower and more deliberately, but I could feel the liberation coming. I'm excited for the day when I can take apart all the directed kit cars I've made and mix the pieces up. I'd love to be able to come up with a cool car of my own design, like my kids do.

But I have to remind myself that while I'm eager for that kind of freedom, and I love to jump in and see how I do all on my own, its the learning to build that allows me to play with freedom in the future. Bodhi wasn't able to make the creations he builds out of his mind today before he spent years following the directions carefully.

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