Thought Trafficking

January 22, 2010, 6:41 am
Filed under: outside | Tags: ,

Crashing is a funny thing. I always expect it, or at least in hindsight I can tell exactly what I did wrong, why I expected it. I have been cross-country skiing a fair amount recently, and so I have had ample  opportunity to crash and to examine the reasons for crashing.

Here is what happens: at the top of a hill, I gauge my chances of success or failure. This has little to do with the grade of the hill and is instead based on the curvature of the tracks. Sometimes I do make it successfully, still standing at the bottom of the hill. When I do fall, it is typically because one ski, as skis will, jumps the track, and at that point I do all of the wrong things. I lean towards the jumped ski, in a misguided effort to control it, at which point the other, stable ski, says “Hey guys! Wait up!” and starts coming to join me and the errant ski. Sometimes I can come back from this point, sometimes not. This is when a calmer part of my brain does a quick inventory of standing obstacles. This is usually the point where my consciousness checks out for a few seconds, until just after impact, when it is safe to come out and assess.

But I’m getting tangled up in the details. I have a sore, stiff thumb from crashing into and halfway over a fence this evening. It is one of those nights, those nights that I can’t get over, where the hoar frost absorbs sound and reflects light so that trees stand like ghosts in orange fields, their meaning briefly altered to your eyes. The ground loses shape, you lose perspective, and the wells of things that usually don’t hold much except gravity are defined by the frost and by the snow. In that context, sudden impact seems impossible.

The initial slam isn’t pain, it’s just impact, just a simultaneous nod to every body part that must later be accounted for. When this happens, it is a surprise each time, like being jolted awake. Then each of these parts start to report. You take note that you are halfway over a fence; that your skis (and legs) are crossed. Which parts of you are up and which are down.

I’m not saying that it hurt that much, nor that I “understand” pain. But I think that this is the way that I react to suddenness. A blank out, and then an inventory.It seemed relatively profound, hanging there, on the fence. After that, you deal with latencies – sore digits or quiet bruises, adjusting small things. Motion; stop; restart. The way, maybe, I read a sentence that catches my breath.


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