We hit home three days ago. Friday, I slept through the better part of my supposed workday. Saturday, we puttered around the house, doing laundry and taxes and sifting through the week’s mail, trying to get our heads back on straight again. We went to a mellow yoga class, where I spent the majority of the hour in child’s pose, examining the dog hair on my mat. Today’s shaping up to be a slow one, too.
Whistler was gorgeous. When I was feeling good, I had a blast. We skied fast. We swam our way through the fog on days that felt more like skiing on the moon than on Earth. Watching the World Cup was phenomenal – hundreds of fans clanging cowbells in each others’ faces, Norwegians acting like idiots, Canadians going crazy for their strong showing, kids begging for autographs. . . It’s hard to hate a sport where the general rule is the bigger your ass, the faster you go.
At the top of Whistler sits an inukshuk, one of the hundreds of sculptures native Canadians originally built in human form as mountain guides – creative cairns, if you will. Inukshuks are supposed to stand for friendship and hope, hence the inspiration for the emblem for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
On our third day, the skies cleared, and the inukshuk loomed just off the Peak chair, with a gorgeous panorama of the high alpine. Groups of skiers eddied around him, marveling at his size and gaping at the view. Making friends better friends, I suppose, like we were, laughing at how close this winter wonderland is to Seattle.
But hope? There wasn’t so much hope up there. Not for me, anyway. Whistler is a big mountain, and six days of skiing there is a lot for anyone, really. I guess you could say I bit off more than I could chew. (I think we all did.)
By day three, standing at the top just meant hoping I could muster the energy to ski down, and I’ll admit I got my priorities mixed up. I wanted so much to be part of every run that I ran myself into the ground not stopping when I should have. I forgot that rule I made a few years ago about pairing intense activity with equal measures of rest. I kept going. And going. And going.
I know everyone’s legs were sore. I could deal with the cramping calves and the twitching quads. (And by now that part is gone.) What I couldn’t handle was the fatigue – that sneaky, foggy, full-body fatigue that the Wolf brings when I least expect it. It feels like a bodysuit made from one of those heavy aprons you wear to protect your organs from X-ray machines. (And really. Who wears a bodysuit?)
Normally, when it comes, I’m pretty accommodating. But when she showed up halfway through our vacation, we’d already bought our lift tickets, and skipping a day didn’t seem like an option. I should have. But I didn’t. Instead, I doped up on steroids and Ibuprofen and pretended I was fine. By day four, I was spent.
Then I got frustrated. For the first time in months, I got really angry, not just at how lupus made me feel, but at the fact that I couldn’t seem to bring myself to tell my friends I’d had enough. That I couldn’t tell my husband or my brother that I’d had enough. That I didn’t want to have had enough. That I was too self-centered – too focused on getting the most of my vacation and afraid of spoiling other peoples’ – to make it completely enjoyable for myself. I spent the days trying to remember whether I’d felt so tired when we went to Whistler for our honeymoon five years ago, before I was diagnosed, and wondering why I’d thought I could ski for six days now, fresh off methotrexate.
Basically, I forgot that less is more. My body forced me to remember.
On day five, I folded at the top of Symphony a few runs after I should have, skied down in a dizzy fog, off balance, and slept for three hours. I woke up, ate a giant burrito stuffed with juicy slow-cooked pork, skipped the drinking, and slept for another nine hours, unmoving.
The last day, my body rebounded a bit. The top of Blackcomb was clear, and as we raced around, the snow came alive again under my skis.
It doesn’t take much, I thought, feeling how the rest rejuvenated me. But it takes some.
Anyway. It was a great week.
We cheered for Bode (warning: bad video):
We stuffed ourselves with wings at Dusty’s:
At night, we gathered in the kitchen and scooped warm stew and spicy sausage pasta sauce into our bellies. We drank beer at the Roundhouse, and ate fat, fluffy Belgian waffles at Crystal Hut:
(And by the way, other ski areas could take a cue from Whistler and offer real mugs for coffee and hot chocolate. It makes both more delicious.)
And despite the cranky, I think I became a better skier, in a week.
On the last day, we spent the morning ripping groomers and dropping into the bowls accessed by Spanky’s Ladder, and by lunch, I was exhausted. But this time, instead of puffing out my chest and sucking up a few more runs, I announced I was done. Jim came inside with me, reminding me that it’s not about what we’d miss, but what we’d already done. We’d already skied the high line above Ruby Bowl:
We’ve already whizzed around like crazies on Cloud 9, he said. What we’ll miss in the afternoon isn’t important. We’ve had fun. He was so right.
At The Rendezvous, we split sushi and pepperoni pizza and a Powerade, the ideal spring skiing lunch that I never knew existed, and Slow Dog Noodled all the way down to the base.
A few hours later, we stopped for ramen at Kintaro in Vancouver. (Anyone going through Vancouver should make time for this. The broth smacks of pig, the noodles are fresh, and the service is pure Japan. Plus, your meal doubles as lip balm, which is great after six days outside.)
I floated some fresh wakame seaweed in my bowl, and the first spoonful came up with an inukshuk in it:
Maybe there is hope, after all. Maybe next time I gear up to ski for a week, I’ll find my inner inukshuk, and remind myself to find a little more balance. Hope: good. Friendship: good. Self-destruction: bad. I’ll make it three days, so I don’t come back and dive into hibernation. I’ll remember that skiing well and having fun doesn’t necessarily require skiing most.
Or, as my brother so astutely pointed out after my last post, I just have to stop squeezing the shit out of life’s fishes. I think that’s what he was trying to tell me in the first place.
He is the ideal role model:
Here’s a stew we made the first day. Frank and I piled the ingredients into my slow cooker before we headed out to watch the race. We’d hoped to sear the meat, but the shitful pans in the condo didn’t get hot enough to give the meat more than a good steam, so we skipped that part, and just put the floured meat right into the pot along with everything else. I’d love to say we noticed the difference, but coming home from a long day on snow, tired and hungry, I’m not sure we did.
Here’s a dump-and-go version of Boeuf Bourguignon that feeds a crowd after a day outdoors without much mothering. You can brown the meat if you have time, but we just tossed it in flour and dumped all the ingredients into a CrockPot before we took off. Nothing fancy, just delicious, low-maintenance sustenance that keeps the wheels turning.
TIME: 30 minutes active time, plus 10 hours cooking time
MAKES: 4 to 6 servings
2 1/2 pounds beef stew pieces
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 large leek, thinly sliced
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1” pieces
1 pound crimini mushrooms, quartered
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 cups dry red wine
2 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 pound fingerling potatoes, cut into 1” chunks (chop just before cooking)
Hot pepper sauce (such as Cholula or Tabasco), to taste
Sour cream, to taste
Pat the beef pieces dry, and mix with the flour in a large bowl. Season the beef with salt and pepper on all sides. (If you have time, sear the meat here in a bit of oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed pan, until nicely browned.) Add the meat to a large slow cooker, along with the onion, garlic, leek, carrots, mushrooms, herbs, wine, and broth, and stir to combine. Cook on low heat, covered, for 10 hours, undisturbed.
Before serving, place the potatoes in a small saucepan and add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Drain, and add potatoes to stew. Season stew to taste with additional salt and pepper and hot pepper sauce, and serve hot, with a dollop of sour cream, if desired.