Wednesday, February 23, 2011

For New Zealand

photo by StefanG81

They say things happen in threes.  So after last year's earthquakes resulted in horrific conditions in Haiti and serious damage in Chile, I was so relieved that the consequences in Christchurch's earthquake last September were restricted primarily to property damage.  It was terrible for the people that live there, but I considered it a real blessing that no lives were lost.  I hoped that might be the end of dreadful earthquakes for a while.

But now, I am distressed to hear about devastation from the earthquake in Christchurch again yesterday, including casualties and terrible, life-altering injuries sustained by people needing to be freed from collapsed buildings.  The pictures in this slideshow bring it home so forcefully.

D and I were married in and spent our two-month honeymoon touring the whole of New Zealand back in 2003.  Christchurch was one of our favorite cities and I vividly remember standing in the cathedral square with the stone tower looming over me.  Now that iconic tower is a pile of rubble.

The Kiwis are some of the warmest, most down-to-earth people we've met in our travels.  Because we married in New Zealand, it holds a special place in our hearts, and now my heart is breaking for the people of Christchurch and their loved ones around the country and around the world. 

If you would like to help, the Red Cross is accepting donations.  As I found when reading this article, the response has been so overwhelming that the Red Cross website keeps crashing.  This warms the cockles of my jaded heart.

Many blessings to you, Christchurch.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The mountain, she calls to me

One of the pretty fantastic things about my pretty fantastic job is that THIS is my view.

And when I say that's my view, it's not that I can get up and walk to a window, or turn around from my desk and see it.  No, I'm fortunate enough that my desk is snuggled right up against the sill, facing out over the river and the city, and best of all - on a clear day, there is a fabulous vista of Mount Hood shining in the distance.

Sometimes, this can be delicious torture.  I'm there in my cube, toiling away diligently, or perhaps not-so-diligently because I'm a little bored with what I'm doing at the time.  Just over the corner of my monitor, the mountain presides over the skyline.

And on days like that, I dream of days like this...

* * *

The alarm beeps, just like it always does, at 5:20 am.  But this isn't like other days.  I skip the morning shower routine and face the mirror.  I arm myself, not with the standard cosmetic mask, but with sunscreen.  For today, I am going to the mountain.  I double- then triple-check that I've got all the accoutrements of a comfy day in the snow.  Would hate to drive all the way up there and find I'm missing a key piece of snowriding equipment, or frostbite-fighting snow gear.

I load up the car and point it east, where hints of dawn are just appearing on the horizon.  I speed towards Portland, hoping to clear the city before the morning commute traffic gathers steam.  Leaving the eastern suburbs behind, I head out through the stunning Columbia River Gorge.  The sunrise is painting gorgeous watercolors across the clouds.  There is a bit of mist and fog clinging here and there on the cliffs of the gorge.  I smile a little, thankful to be enjoying nature's beauty, rather than commuting to the office.

Arriving in Hood River, I turn south and begin the climb up towards the mountain through the Hood River valley, an area famous for its fruit orchards.  At one point, I round a bend and the mountain dominates the view ahead.  My smile grows a little wider.

I hit the snow level and the road slices through the evergreen forest cladding the mountain's flanks.  The sun, fully risen now but hanging low in the winter sky, sends shafts of sunlight through the trees, alighting on the virgin snow on the steep embankments along the roadside.  The angle is just right to reflect off the ice crystals, winking and twinkling brightly like a million diamonds.  I beam back, entranced by the effect.

Soon I have arrived at the Mount Hood Meadows parking lot.  The payoff to my early start is that I get to park nice and close to the lodge.  I hastily don my snow gear and grab the snowboard, rushing to get to the lifts just as they open to score some fresh tracks.  Waiting around with other eager snowriders, I fire up the MP3 player, loaded with all the tunes designed to pump me up for my workouts.  I haven't been to the gym in months, so these old favorites are gems that I haven't heard in a while.  The soundtrack of my day, perfectly suited, and each tune in the rotation widens my grin a little more.  

I board the lift, which speeds me up the mountain, affording a view of the pristine snowy peak against an impossibly blue sky.  It carries me above the timberline, and when I disembark at the top, I take in the panorama of the Cascade mountain range, clouds settled into valleys below, layering into the distance where I can see other volcanic peaks jutting into the ether.  I sit in the soft packed powder, breathing the cold air in deep and slow, momentarily awed.

Then the descent is begun.  Groomed corduroy everywhere, with off piste-powder to go play in.  I connect the first few turns, reengaging with the familiar motions.  Lean onto the back edge... roll my weight over the board, push into the front edge turn, roll back again.  Gathering speed,  I head for untracked powder, shift weight to the back leg to keep the board tip up.  In the powder - magical fluffy powder - the board floats, turning, sinking, lifting at the slightest movement, even the slightest thought.  Look where I want to go and it just happens.  Nothing in my mind but the next turn.  This is like six months of therapy rolled into one moment.  My grin is so large now it nearly splits my head open.

I've come to the mountain alone today - something I've only started doing regularly this season.  It's easier to just check the snow conditions, let the office know I'll be MIA and just go.  No coordinating schedules, no accommodating others' needs.  Although I thought it might be lonely, I find it incredibly freeing.  I make the runs I want to make, changing my mind from moment to moment about where I'll head to next.  No stopping to wait for a companion, no charging ahead worried that I'm being too slow.  It's just me, my music, my board and the snow.  Halfway down the mountain, Jesus Jones "Right Here, Right Now" plays through the headphones.

You know it feels good to be alive
I was alive and I waited, waited
I was alive and I waited for this
Right here, right now
There is no other place I'd want to be


* * *
So tell me, what perfect day do you dream about?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

You know the stereotype that says women can't parallel park?


I am inordinately proud of this... of course it did take 5 minutes and a 27-point turn (Austin Powers style) to get it in there and I'm a little afraid about getting it back out again.