If we were near the beach, I would immediately think “surfers,” but since we’re at 10,000 feet in Colorado, “skiers” is a better guess. All these folks in their twenties with great tans and carefree attitudes – they must be skiers.
As S and I have wandered the streets of these mountain towns this weekend – Breckenridge, Frisco, Dillon – we keep seeing people with longer hair, great physiques, and these wonderful carefree spirits. They’re the people who have waited on us at restaurants, helped us on and off the gondola to the top of the mountain, sold us hand-sewn bags at this amazing store called Magical Scraps, and folded our sweet, delicious crepes. They are the people who live to ski, and who make that happen by working these jobs in the off-season. I find that beautiful.
I’ve heard many folks say that surfers and skiers are lazy, that they don’t really want to work. I just don’t see that as true. Instead, I see them as wise and focused. They find a way to support their passion. They spend a few months helping women out of swinging chairs, and then when the snow comes, they don their boots and swing from the chairs themselves, ready to feel the slide of that white powder beneath them. A few months of work to do what you love the rest of the year – that is wisdom.
Many writers do this as well. They teach for part of the year and then spend the summers pounding out the words. Or they work day jobs in order to buy groceries and while away the evenings putting words to paper. Sometimes though, the difference between writers and skiers (and the surfers in Stinson Beach) is that we writers can allow ourselves to get diverted from our true aim rather easily. Suddenly, our desire to write poems gets subsumed by teaching, and we’re writing papers about curriculum instead of odes to dawn. Or we are so tired from the job that takes our day hours that we come home only to collapse in front of a screen before falling asleep. Of course, we all have to find a way to support ourselves, and sometimes these methods come with uncompromising demands on our time and energy. But I wonder if we might not take inspiration from the skiers of the Colorado mountains.
What if we only did work that allowed us to work on our writing? What if we spent the day doing important but not mentally taxing work so that we could use those hours to let our words season? What if we took jobs at places that fed our work – earning money by studying bookstore culture if your main character is a bookstore clerk or managing a doctor’s office for that collection of medical essays you’re writing? What if we chose to live and work in the places that give us the most energy, taking the mountain without snow rather than giving up the mountain altogether?
What if we made our lives about our passion instead of finding a way to squeeze that passion into our lives?
I’m going to be about this life the best I can. I’m taking my passion for words and living it out in all I do. If this means a little less money or a little less prestige, I will have to sacrifice these things. The voice of my truest self doesn’t call me to don a snowboard and drop down the face of a mountain (thank goodness for that), but it does call me to write and live my life to that end.
Here is what that looks like for me. I will live in a place where the very earth inspires me. I will read books and take walks and eat amazing foods because these are the things that make me feel healthy. I will not sacrifice my best hours to anything that is not my most important work. I will trust that I will always have enough because I have been promised I will. This sounds like life.
What about you?