Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Act Of Creation

There is snow in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow night.
Not much and temperatures are still unseasonably warm, but I have fingers crossed that we will see snow this weekend before the skies clear up again early next week.
Weather forecasts are funny things.
When I lived in Juneau I always thought that being a meteorologist would be an easy job.
80% of the time you could just call for rain and you would be correct.
And if you were wrong and the day turned unexpectedly sunny, no-one would be angry with you for being wrong.
I always thought that it would be a good job to have up there.............
When I was racing I followed weather forecasts religiously in the week leading up to a race.  
I was getting ready to do a 300 mile race up in Virginia and during the week prior to the race start, the forecast told me that the weather would be mostly sunny with temperatures in the 40's.
A tropical storm hit Florida the day before the race, and by the time the race started the remnants of the storm  had made its way up the east coast.
When it eventually hit Virginia, temperatures dropped below freezing.
We started the race at midnight and my team paddled until 6:30 the next evening.  Immediately after the paddle  (and even though all I wanted to do was sleep) we had to hike up to the climbing site and do a 200 foot ascent and a 300 foot rappel because they were getting ready to shut the climb down, so it was now or never.
We got 1 hour of sleep in the back of a UHaul van before race officials had to move the van ahead to meet up and hand transported gear over to faster teams.  
A hike in the mountains overnight (and the start of serious hallucinations on my part from sleep deprivation) and we finally got some sleep.  
A little.
By the time we woke up two hours later it was snowing heavily, and teams began bailing on the race.
With not enough gear for the kind of unexpected weather that had developed once the cold, freezing rain and snow began to settle over our area in earnest, teams began dropping out of the race, cutting their losses and heading home.
One team loaned us another sleeping bag and a bike rack before we began a 24 hour bike ride into the mountains and into the snow.
One of my male team-mates had to pee on my drive train so that it would unfreeze and so that I could change gears before everything froze up again.
Temperatures were below freezing for the first three days of the race.
I had hypothermia twice during that race.
I shiver just thinking about it even now................

As I write this I am sitting on the love seat, LC is napping on the couch, and Kory is napping on the floor behind the wood stove in the living room.
The Twin Buttes (which I can normally see from my front window) have disappeared from the world.
Lost in a grey desert-sea of cloud and mist and rain................

Somewhere around the end of my first year of racing I signed up for a 48 hour race in North Carolina.
Again I watched the weather.
Again it promised to be in the 40's.
The race started at 10pm with a short bike ride to a canoe put-in.
By the time we got to the lake it was cold and very windy, and we set out into the choppy, freezing and very black water in search of our first check point.
Within a couple of hours there was freezing rain.
The two guys I was racing with were in the back and center of the boat and I was in front, and the water was so choppy that white caps hit me time and again for many hours.
One of my team-mates made the observation that he hoped we didn't tip the canoe, because we would be in a life or death situation trying to make it to shore.
I understood his concern, but at the time felt that he was overstating the situation we were in.
Many hours later I felt exactly the same way that he did.  
Not only because the weather had deteriorated so badly, but by that time we were all soaking wet, freezing cold, and exhausted.
Thankfully we did not have to find out whether or not we could all make it to shore in our frozen condition.
Thankfully we did not capsize.
Pulling off the water at 6 the next morning I still did not realize just what kind of shape we were in until I tried to stand up.
I could barely move.  When I finally did manage to stand, I could barely walk.  When I finally managed to walk, I hobbled to the race check-in to let staff know that we were back and I could barely talk.
My two team-mates were in exactly the same condition that I was in.
Hobbling up to the mens change room (the female change rooms were unheated) I tried to unbuckle my life jacket, only to realize that I had no fine motor skills.
Our support crew had been woken up by race staff and were on their way, but until they arrived strange men were peeling soaking wet clothes off all three of us.
Writing that now sounds very strange, but there were many males and females in the same condition that we were, and getting wet clothes off and warm blankets around athletes until respective support crews could take over and help rewarm their people was the highest priority.
There was no room for being self conscious and nobody was.
90 minutes later we were on bikes and heading up into the mountains...................

These pictures were all taken about a week ago on a late evening drive out into the desert.
Kory needed to run and the drive so late in the evening was a spur of the moment decision.
We headed out onto Big Butte Road, and then turned off just before the rail road tracks, picking up a narrow trail that would take us to a huge, unused water tank and a huge, unused water trough.
At one time in the past these were used to water domestic animals.
Most likely cattle.
Days are getting shorter very fast, and neither LC nor I realized at the time that we were so close to sunset.
As we wandered around this now abandoned watering area I realized that the sky was changing color very fast...................
During that same North Carolina race, my team headed up into the mountains on bike.
As the elevation increased the freezing rain transitioned over to first light snow and then heavier snow, and the trails that we were biking moved from wet to rocky to a brake-pad eating combination of rock/mud/ice.
Within a few hours of leaving the TA (transition area where we moved from paddling to biking) we were in heavy snow and freezing temperatures.
Still relatively new to racing, my body was warm enough but I did not have the right gear either for my feet or for my hands.  They were both soaking wet and freezing cold.
This was early into my adventure racing escapades, AR was still a relatively new sport, and we were using old Forest Service maps from the 1950's (long before race organizers started using computer generated and up-to-date maps on waterproof paper, which they did a couple of years later).
Still climbing we eventually came to the realization that we must have missed an unmanned check point and a trail turn.  That both of these things were somewhere "back there" - lost in the snow.
By the time that realization happened one of my team-mates had brakes front and rear.  I had front brakes but no back.  My other team-mate had back brakes but no front.
Eventually we came to a steep downhill, and it took all of my concentration to stay upright on my bike.
I managed to do that, got to the bottom of the hill, coasted into the middle of a snow-covered road, and finally slowed down enough to be able to put my feet down and stop.
Turning to my two team-mates I told them that I had no more brakes on my bike.
And then I finally looked around me to see where we were.
Where we were was in the middle of a blizzard.  Heavy snow was blowing in sideways at us.
It was an "Oh shit" moment.
I looked at the guys who were straddling their bikes and saying nothing.
Their faces told me that they were as stunned as I was.
I looked around me to see if there was a place to shelter from the strong winds and heavy snow.
There was nowhere.
Climbing off my bike I walked it over to the guys and yelled at them over the wind.
We all discussed what to do from here.
We had missed a check point and a trail.  We were now on a road that was not on the outdated map that we had been given.  I had no brakes on my bike and one of my team-mates had failing brakes.  Snow was coming in sideways at us.
My stomach sunk.  So did my team-mates.  With the realization of what we were about to do.
We dug out the emergency radio and called in to race HQ to come pick us up.
And then we dug down into the bottom of our packs, broke open our tin foil emergency blankets and hunkered down for the next hour until help arrived.
Loading bikes into the back of the truck of the race volunteer who had come to haul our sorry asses out of the mountains, we all three cold and tired racers climbed into his warm vehicle, grateful to be out of the mess that was this mountain weather.
As we made our way down to the closest TA our support crew was informed of our status and I knew that they would be heading to the TA to meet up with us.
As we drove to the TA I began to hear heavy radio chatter.
One by one, teams began calling in to the race HQ for help.
Two hours after we bailed on the race, the race was called.
It had been cancelled due to the weather.
My team hated to call in and DNF (Did Not Finish) on the race, but within a couple of hours of being picked up we were glad that we had called when we did.
Every emergency crew in every county surrounding the race area ended up being called out to reach stranded racers.
The last team was not pulled out of the mountains until 2 the next morning
Good times...................
For the last six months I have walked past the house of a resident here in town and glanced over at this boat.
Every single time I walked with Kory I would look at the small, dirty, mildewy boat sitting forlornly in the weeds. 
It was leaning against an old mobile home on the property that is now used as a storage building for the couple, and I wondered absently whether LC could use it and would like it.
It looked pitiful.
I never mentioned it because it looked so pitiful.
But every time I walked by it I looked at it.
Finally one day not long ago I stopped by this residents' house.  The husband works out of state and so I talked to the woman.
Someone had given it to her years ago, but her husband neither liked it nor wanted it, and so it was tossed forgotten into the weeds.
She was planning on making a planter out of it.
Does it float?  She didn't know.
There was a trolling motor that came with it.
Does the motor work?  She didn't know.
I didn't know if LC wanted it, but could he take a look at it?  Sure.
My Mountain Boy looked at it.  
How much did she want for it?  She didn't know but would think about it.
A couple of days later the woman called me, and told me that she needed some boxes moved, and if we moved them for her we could just take the boat and motor.
And so I spent four hours the next morning rummaging through an overflowing mobile home slash storage building, while the lady told me what she wanted taken out and moved over to her house.
Four hours digging through nasty, moldy, water damaged..........junk..........that to THIS lady was treasure.
It was dirty and sometimes disgusting work, but by the end of it we had a fixer-upper boat and a motor.
The boat right after we brought it home on a cheap trailer that we picked up here in town mostly because we wanted the 15 inch tires and wheels for a very little camper that we bought during the summer.
The trailer now has the little campers' 13 inch wheels..............
LC has done a fair amount of work on it over the past few weeks, and it is now ready to paint.
White exterior.  Light grey interior.
We still don't know whether the motor works or not, but I suppose that we will find out soon enough.
I'll post pictures when the boat is painted, and hopefully it will be a nice little lake boat when it is all said and done.
Ten feet long by just under five feet wide, with room for oars just in case.
One thing we both have in common is the desire and ability to make something out of nothing.
Like turning a sorry, disliked and long forgotten little sailboat into a welcomed and appreciated little fishing boat.............
One of the strangest things is the act of creation.
You are faced with a blank slate—a page, a canvas, a block of stone or wood, a silent musical instrument.
You then look inside yourself. 
You pull and tug and squeeze and fish around for slippery raw shapeless things that swim like fish made of cloud vapor and fill you with living clamor. You latch onto something. And you bring it forth out of your head like Zeus giving birth to Athena.
And as it comes out, it takes shape and tangible form.
It drips on the canvas, and slides through your pen, it springs forth and resonates into the musical strings, and slips along the edge of the sculptor’s tool onto the surface of the wood or marble.
You have given it cohesion. 
You have brought forth something ordered and beautiful out of nothing.
You have glimpsed the divine............Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

No comments:

Post a Comment