Going down the mountain on a snowboard or on your ass

Do you ever wonder about all the artefacts we’re using blithely unaware of how much more they make possible for us?

Jumping from the ski-lift

Jumping from the ski-lift

Reminiscing about the time I was 16 and stupid. I’m older now, so more conscious about the latter (among other things).

In some ways it’s really hard to categorise my thoughts. I’m supposed to use all these labels and categories and tags and whatever.

While I am trying to be as precise and as clear-cut as possible, this manner of organising information makes you ask yourself (whenever you open your mouth again):

“Which subheading (or heading) am I going to choose? What’s this recording going to be about?”

Obviously, this kind of self-consciousness gives these musings a certain air of artificiality.

Be that is it may, this one is going to be about going downhill in snow.

Now, this can be done at a mountain resort, where you give (or show) a piece of paper to somebody and you get on top of this thing that is hanging from a cable that pulls you up this hill, and when you get to the top of this hill, you put on this board (which you brought with yourself or rented from somebody in this place), you fasten it to your boots (which, again, you brought with yourself or rented from somebody in this place), then you start snowboarding or skiing. Let’s go with snowboarding; so you attach the board to the boots by means of these straps (made of… petrol? Is it? Oil products, right?), and then you slide downhill.

That’s the experience and throughout this time you’re using a lot of props that have been built by other people for you, for your enjoyment, for your benefit, for your safety and comfort.

Naturally, even in this technology-rich situation, there is a lot that hasn’t been planned: As you’re sliding downhill, you could crash really bad, you could crash into some other person, or a tree, or a boulder, since there may be a forest on one side or even on both sides; additionally, there are posts (holding up the cables) which you could bump your body against; hopefully, by the time you get to the top, you’d have mastered the basics on how to stand up, how to fall properly, how to control your speed by breaking, and so on.

Crucially though, throughout this experience you’re surrounded by people, people like you or people working there to assist you.

Past this beginner stage, there comes the enjoyment of flying downhill, gaining more speed, zigzagging, breaking and going faster, trying to jump a little bit, trying different ways of balancing yourself on the board, figuring out how much flexing of the knees is necessary for each operation, and so on.

Alternatively, you could employ another method of sliding downhill, which I personally experienced. This was when I was climbing a mountain in Romania, at a time when you’re not supposed to be on the mountain because there’s nobody else around. In this place there was no cable; actually, there was a cable (not working) for a certain distance, but after you’d cross the first mountain crest, it was just mountains.

Now, the mountain was covered in snow and I was climbing it on foot; not with bought or rented special-purpose boots, but with the boots I had on my feet when I left home, carrying a sleeping bag and a tent, with the firm intention of going up the mountain and sleeping in the snow.

What was I thinking? Good question: I was young and stupid, what can you do?

Anyway, I went uphill and after some time, after a dialogue with myself, I had come to the realisation that this may be quite foolhardy; I was wearing jeans, which by this time had become soaked and half frozen with snow (because I wasn’t wearing snow-covered mountain climbing equipment).

So I decided to turn back, and I started to slide down hill, on my ass. Didn’t have a board, either.

How long did I have to slide back? Quite a lot, since I had climbed the whole day and had a long dialogue with myself on that mountain.

If you go into the movements that are necessary in some action (such as climbing), if you go too much into the moment, AFTER you take a bad decision (such as climbing this mountain without the proper equipment), you might be caught in a situation where there is very little good left, where there are very few good options to continue in the Zen way.

Who knows what would have happened (had I continued)? Maybe I would have learned another lesson.

As it happened, I chickened out and turned around at 3:40 pm, when it was getting dark, and slid on my ass downhill, back to reality.

What was Reality? Well, reality was Romania; in the train station, I had to wait for my train and I was nearly frozen all this time, still had snow in my pockets (no snow in the train station in the town).

Presently, the (train station) policeman took me to his “personal” room, took my ID, asked me to wait in this un-heated room simply because he thought it was strange to have a young guy, alone here, up to no good, probably.

Obviously this guy’s been climbing mountains, has a knife on him (I had a knife hanging on my belt that would normally be used for hunting because I had just come back from climbing a mountain).

Stupid young people, right?

So I was put in this room; interestingly enough, the policeman didn’t notice or didn’t bother to take away my knife, just my ID.

Notice here the mentality of Romanian law-enforcement:

It’s not the weapons that matter, it’s the officially-issued document:

Take away somebody’s papers and they’re helpless.

This guy kept me there in the cold for 6-7 hours until some informant came by and he had to get rid of me so I wouldn’t see whatever transaction he had to conduct with this guy.

So I got back my ID, and I got on the train back in the middle of the night, to go back to Bucharest. Of course, I had to change because I was still soaking-wet, changed in some shorts, but still kept the knife, just in case people mistook me for a sucker (Rom. fraier) and tried to steal my backpack or something. Ridiculous, right?

Small, short guy, looks like he’s been too long in Nature, in the Wild, so now he feels he’s still in the wild and doesn’t realise he’s on a train back to a place where 2 million people live together…

So yeah, sliding downhill in snow: You can do it on a board, or you can do it on your ass.

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