What I did on my winter vacation, days one through three

04 Mar
  1.  Flew over the Cascades to Hailey, Idaho with husband and eleven year old son to spend five days with friends in the Wood River Valley, also known as Sun Valley because of the ski resort. We left our older three in charge at home. I found the views straight down from the airplane breathtaking. By morning light we could see the hills and folded mountains in clear relief. Made me long to hike the trails we could see zigzagging through the range and perched along ridges. Beautiful lakes, some frozen small towns in river valleys, then the pasture lands and circle-irrigated fields of the rain shadow. Not a cloud in the sky.
  2. Went skiing on the free half day pass that came with my airline ticket. Got my ski legs back, such as they are, and felt that I do want to keep downhill skiing loosely in my recreation repertoire after all. Pretty expensive, but if someone needs a companion and doesn’t expect me to keep up with them, I can enjoy it. I like the quiet, the fresh air, watching the faster skiers as they pass. I like traveling up in the open air lift, the sun on my face, the grinding of the cables interspersed by deep quiet. All those one leg squats from Pilates class made it pretty pain free this time, and I got some free tips from a retired ski instructor. It’s cool how anyone from age two to eighty-two can be up there enjoying themselves.
  3. Sat around and read Boys in the Boat, then did some writing. Wondered if I was being social enough with my hostess, if i was being too feisty with my host, though his wife says he enjoys a good debate. Watched some Fox News (can’t get much else here) and made sarcastic comments, watched Godzilla, played Apples to Apples, realized that certain games work best with certain personalities. We ended the game early, our host having won but not seeming to have enjoyed the game much.
  4. Worked on some math with my son, assigned writing and sketches. Tried to explain the use of pi in calculating circumference and area, but he had a mental block about the idea of discovering a constant. So it became more a lesson on the importance of not quitting, and being emotionally okay with not understanding the why of everything, until one is ready.
  5. Sat in the River Run lodge as my boys skied, trying to write to seventies top forty and  drinking my coffee and the free water.
  6. Drove down to Silver Creek, a small river, to explore, sit, watch, and sketch, with the couple with whom we’re staying and my youngest son. The gravel and stone-strewn bars, vegetation, and patches of old snow a study in silver-gray and pale earth tones. A few clouds trailed shadows over the sage-dotted hills beyond the road and bridge. Naked aspens rose and branches, reaching into the pale blue sunshine, from beds of last summer’s leaves. Our host did some fly fishing, which, if not actually participating, I love to watch. And watch the water flow, and look right down into it to see what silvery shapes might pass by. It was a challenge to help my son settle in to just being. He didn’t want to draw anything, had finished his book, wanted to go sit in the car and wondered if we could go yet. I felt irritated at him, and guilty that I hadn’t done more to acclimatize him to outdoor places. Told him I was staying, and he should go to the car if he was going to be a downer. But he felt different about being sent to the car, so decided to stroll around after all. I found a sketching spot near my friend and worked on a drawing. Getting started is the hard part, but then I get in the flow. Though it’s still hard work, I enjoy seeing the picture emerge, and the sense of intimacy with the landscape that can be gained. My son came back and I was able to interest him in making designs with different colored stones on the beach.
  7. Noticed a bird sitting stunned on the sidewalk next to the window of the rec center. It was a cedar waxwing, one I’d admired in field guide pictures I perused as a child. It was just sitting hunched, feathers fluffed against the subfreezing air, and I gently scooped it up. Knowing that one shouldn’t, perhaps, but I craved a closer encounter, and when would I have another chance? I also thought it might not survive whatever injuries it might have sustained, and I might see it off with some kind of tenderness. Its eyes were closed within the black stripe running from beak to cheek. Soft, gray-brown surface as fine as rabbit fur, band of pale yellow across the end of its tail, and four bright orange feather-bare quills near the end of each striped wing. Took it back to show the men, who sternly ordered me to put it back, that I would frighten it to death. Showed it to my son, and he marveled and did a quick sketch. It’s eyes opened and it seemed to perk up, so I took it outside, holding it out and and dropping my hand a few times, but it made no move to fly away on its little wings. So I brought it in again, took a few pictures, then showed it to my friend, who was also of the opinion that one should not interfere. But it was too late. Whether because of its accident or a fright reaction, as it sat on the paper towel on which I’d placed it, it jerked its head, extended its claws and fell on its side. I took it out and laid it under a bush, and within a minute it was dead.
  8. Walked around the small town of Ketchum, full of independent businesses and not one multinational (except Sotheby’s) or big box chain store. Locals have been adamant on that, and apparently they have the political and financial clout. I bought some good ski clothes at the second hand store that raises money for the local library, then went to a coffee shop recommended by the woman who told me how to find the clothing store. I slowly sipped my rich, subtly spiced latte as I sat at my window seat facing the western mountains, which were covered with snow and evergreens.
  9. Took my son to a rock and crystal shop to admire the enormous quartz, amethyst, and fossils of archaic squid and crinoids. I wish I could afford the several thousand dollars for their slab of orthoceras (the squid) fossils captured in school formation, swimming like nothing was amiss.



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