Peter Shelton seeking the turn
in the San Juans
Mt. Bachelor January 9, 2020
I don’t believe perfect exists. I have about as much success wrapping my brain around the concept of perfect as I do grasping the notion of infinity, say.
Perfection is a human construct, something theoretical, ideal; it doesn’t exist in nature. What I do think exist are perfect evanescent moments, perfectly carved turns, perfect hours on the mountain – philosophically impossible, maybe, but nevertheless flawless exceptions that prove the rule.
Today was one of those days. The objective markers tell some of the story. Four inches of new snow overnight, delivered with little wind, groomed judiciously on the main boulevards. And that snow was very low density, extremely low for the Oregon Cascades, maybe six or seven percent water, I’m guessing, where typical “Cascades Cream” is more like 10-12 percent, and the driest Colorado snow (also rare) comes in at about four percent water. The point being, this was dandelion fluff, light whipped cream atop a smooth ice-creamy under layer, snow so insubstantial that skis, boots, shins experienced only a feathery resistance. Temperature: high teens, not even a hint of warming or melting snow. Sky like a gin-clear lake, shrinking the distance to Broken Top and South Sister, all of the mountains, like Bachelor, almost completely white: rimed white trees, lava flows, summit snowfields, the whole white-washed world under a cerulean blue with a low January sun making shadows of every twig, every wind ripple, every curving, new-moon ski track. By mid-morning Carnival run was a virtual Jackson Pollack of overlain scythings, if, instead of endless layers of dripped paint Jackson Pollack had been into gouging perfectly round lines.
There’s that word perfect again. Our old friend and fellow ski schooler, Dick Dorworth, wrote a wonderful short story called “The Perfect Turn,” about an aging ski instructor thinking back on his quest for the perfect turn. It’s one of the best pieces of ski fiction out there. And it cuts very close to Dick’s own (and mine, and many skiers’) pursuit of an aesthetic ideal, on skis. A perfect turn will be different for everyone, but it will feel the same to each of us.
In my case, the turn will be etched into the snow the way a silversmith carves an image in soft metal. The two curved blades on my feet will slice parallel arcs through the snow without throwing any spray, without going sideways at all. Railroad tracks, some people call them. This perfect turn will not live in isolation, of course; it will be part of a continuum. It will have its beginning in the perfect end of the previous turn – the weightless, perfectly positioned setup (“the love spot,” in the perfectly apt phrase of guru John Clendenin), and it will likewise extend into the perfect beginning of the next turn. It’s a continuous flow. Where does the petal’s edge stop and the next thing, the not rose petal, begin?
This turn feels as if it takes no muscle power to complete. My center of mass, my hips, my head, are so placed inside the arc I have but to stand against the snow, easy as leaning against a lamppost. The snow is turning me.
Stringing a couple of these perfect semi-circles together, sine waves, sends me into raptures. It can’t be maintained for an entire run, or a whole day, or lord knows a whole mountain. But these peeks inside the monastery, these glimpses of mathematical, musical even (music of the spheres!) symmetries are enough.
Spoiler alert: Dorworth’s hero had to cross over from one reality into another in order to achieve his perfect turn. Today felt a little bit like stealing fire from the gods. Perfect turns (or close approximations) and the godlike feeling of drawing continuous lines, strings of crescent moons across the volcano’s furrows… Well, it doesn’t get much closer to heaven than that.
A response from a fellow perfectionist of the Turn
Hi Peter !!! The search is a topic close and deep to my heart.
The Aspen X Games kick off today at Buttermilk, the 19th year that the world’s legends and rising stars of skiing and snowboarding (and snowmobiling, too) gather in a celebration of youth culture and extreme on-mountain feats. For the top athletes who make the podium, they will receive a medal as unique and fresh as the event itself — a hand crafted work of art created by Ridgway’s Lisa Issenberg.
Formed in 2012, Issenberg’s design studio is called Kiitella (Finnish for thank, praise, and applaud). An artist with a vast resume that includes everything from jewelry to large-scale architectural installations, Issenberg found her niche as an award-maker and it began in Telluride with Mountainfilm.
Like Robert Johnson, P. Lev at the crossroads
Spotted Eagle. Can’t Have Him Fly. . . No Fly List For Sure !
The first day of President Trump’s impeachment trial didn’t end until close to 2 a.m. on Wednesday, keeping senators up late. Recording devices are not allowed inside the Senate chamber, but a sketch artist captured some of the lawmakers looking less than invested in the proceedings.
“Yeah, some senators are playing with their Apple watches, others are solving crosswords and worst of all, a senator from Idaho fell asleep — like ‘asleep’ asleep. Because you know you’ve been sleeping for a long time when an artist has time to sketch your portrait. That’s sleep.” — TREVOR NOAH, referring to Senator Jim Risch of Idaho
“It’s totally understandable that Senator Risch fell asleep at 5:30 p.m. Wow! Wow! Four and a half hours in — somebody poke him.” — STEPHEN COLBERT
“He didn’t just nod off for a second — he was asleep long enough to be hand drawn. Put a glass under his mouth to see if it fogs up a little bit.” — STEPHEN COLBERT
“A spokesman said he wasn’t sleeping, he was just listening closely, which is exactly what my grandmother used to say when she was sleeping.” — JIMMY KIMMEL
“You couldn’t help but be moved by the historic nature of the event unless you were Senator Rand Paul, because according to one reporter, every few minutes, Rand Paul keeps flipping through his notebook to do bits of a crossword. [Imitating Rand Paul] Let’s see here, let’s see here: ‘Sackless Trump toady, eight letters’ — oh! Rand Paul!”— STEPHEN COLBERT
“Meanwhile, Adam Schiff looked like he spent the night dropping Adderall into his Four Loko.” — JIMMY FALLON
“He laid out a ton of evidence against the president, much of it sound bites of Trump himself, and he invoked the founding fathers and their words a lot. Schiff quoted Hamilton so many times today, he was nominated for five Tony Awards.” — JIMMY KIMMEL
“It was gratifying to see someone taking the constitutional responsibility of their office seriously. He laid out the case against the president clearly, passionately, cogently and, I believe, courageously. Because whether or not President Trump is removed from office, history will not forgive those who looked the other way at his abuses or forget those who stepped in the breach at this moment of crisis. So, no surprise, the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter was Mr. Peanut.” — STEPHEN COLBERT
“Schiff stood there today in front of his audience discussing the president’s corruption and incompetence using graphics, audio and video of witnesses, even clips of Trump incriminating himself. Hey, Schiff, you’re treading on my turf. If I find out you’ve got a house band, I’m suing.” — STEPHEN COLBERT
Although he was very successful as a Daimyo Matsudaira Fumai is remembered today as an eccentric tea master, an aesthete, and connoisseur of tea utensils, wares and artifacts. As he was an authority on all aspects of tea, people would also ask him for advice, for example on how to prepare the break (Nakadachi) in the procedure of a formal tea gathering. And as probably always the most important bit comes to the very end:
“How to prepare the Nakadachi-pause? It depends on the length of Roji-path. With a long path, prepare the pause right after the meal is withdrawn. We water the garden and path. If there is a bench inside of a Nakaguri-gate, the outside pathway does not need to be watered. We water until the bench. If the bench is outside, the whole pathway needs to be watered. If there are leaves scattered around the garden and look unpleasant, sweep them under a tree. All the bamboos and stepping-stones in the view need to be watered. We keep in mind that in summer we water the trees, in winter water the stones. But most important is not to waste time.”
Monument 6″ @ 0.55″
Red Mountain Pass 5″ @ 0.4″
Molas Pass 4″ @ 0.4″
Coal Bank Pass 6″ @ 0.6″