The Corner

Apropos of Everything

I have these new skis. (They’re ScottyBobs, built by ScottyBob, an artist-craftsman of a sort that doesn’t much exist anymore, who will chat with you and ask how’s the snow out there as he takes your order over the phone, and whom I commend to any telemark skiers among you with all the energy of my soul.)

Every ski has its own way of wanting to turn, and therefore its own way of wanting to be weighted. How it wants to turn, and how it wants you to weight it, will vary with the terrain and the type of snow on which you are skiing. So while ski technique as an average is universal, and can be explained or demonstrated by any instructor, the one true technique is something you must find alone, under the guidance of the final teacher, which is the turn you happen to be making right now.

In challenging conditions, your first turns on new skis will be more or less clumsy, and the clumsiness will cause your mind to chatter. “No, weight the uphill ski a little more. And the transition is slower than you’re used to. And for God’s sake drop that knee.” With time, though, the chatter ceases, the technique gets internalized, and its execution becomes automatic.

Then some subtler imperfection will present itself to you, demanding its own technical fix. Again, the fix will begin self-consciously and end beyond concept. The sequence repeats itself, over and over and over. As it does, not only does your technique advance, but your tactile awareness of the slope becomes more vivid, and your visual awareness more encompassing. This happens because your mind is becoming freer to hearken to the teacher, right now.

When finally you hearken fully, your mind is blank, pure reception; your tactile, visual, and auditory worlds are perfectly synchronized; and your body produces each needful movement spontaneously, as an organic extension of your skis’ flight over the snow.

*

There is also a meta-technique, a technique for acquiring technique, which is to say a technique for listening to the teacher. It is simple, and it is this: You do not start to ski until your mind is calm and clear. Let the mental chatter subside. Let anxiety over being watched by other skiers, or desire to impress them, subside.

Let your irritation with so-and-so, your vexation over the day’s news, your anger at that damned politician, your raw, seething anger — let it subside.

Do not try to push these things away, or they will be stubborn. Just stand there and breathe and give them space and do nothing at all until they leave of their own accord.

Then you make your first turn.

*

Then you write your first sentence. It will turn out much better that way. Tell it true, but tell it cool, always with a hint of a smile (smiling sarcasm is fine), and only if you are detached enough that the words would vanish from your head if you walked away from the computer. You could actually write like that. Me too.

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