Monday, January 7, 2008

Week 15 Winter Break

My heart fluttered as I swung there, high above the treetops. The chair lift had stopped again. Rats. I hated that. I avoided looking down. Out was better.

The late rays of sun licked the snowy mountaintops with an orangey glow. This would be my last run of the day. Good thing, since my gloves were a bit damp and my fingers were becoming numb. The lengthening shadows brought a chill to the Rockies. Not long ago I had been skiing with my jacket wide open and my hair blowing freely – no hat. Now I inched my zipper higher toward my chin with my free hand. The other one was looped around the center post of the chair, clutching both of my ski poles. The snow below me took on a bluish tone in the dimming light.

I was going to do it this time. It was my last chance. The last run of the day on my last day in New Mexico. Tomorrow I would be on a plane back to the flatter lands of Minnesota. I had seen many skiers tumble, some hard, but others seemed to take “The Face” in stride, carving controlled Ss across the steep slope. I wanted to do it too. No bombing, just a comfortable curving line back and forth with a tiny tinge of racing heart as my skis would point downward again momentarily at each turn. If I could just avoid picking up too much speed during those moments, I could ski The Face without bodily harm. Right. Easier said than done.

Just three nights before, we had watched as a tight line of skiers waving bright orange torches snaked their way down that very run. Fireworks burst in the air from the summit above them. The line crawled along as slowly as a group of beginners on the bunny hill. That is, until one set of torches broke away from the zigzag and somersaulted to the side. The unfortunate tumbler wasn’t seriously hurt, but if the experts had trouble, who was I to think I could manage it even in the fleeting daylight.

My brain kept debating itself, as I took in a last breathtaking view from the top of the mountain. I skied several familiar runs on my way back down, so preoccupied with my thoughts I was barely aware of them. Finally, I stood at the top of The Face, overlooking the roof of the chalet. It appeared to be just a few feet forward and yet miles down, that’s how steep it was. I watched a few skiers, more confident than I, go by. Even they paused to take a deep breath before descending. I needed about twenty.

At last I inched forward. I could hear my pulse pounding in my ears. My skis slid along with a light shushing sound gaining momentum. I concentrated hard on my form, realizing I would have to either turn soon or ski off the edge. I took another deep breath and held it as I shifted my weight and allowed the tips of my skis to angle downward. Then as quickly as I could, I pressed the backs of them down and to the side. The sharp edges dug into the icy snow with a whoosh, but miraculously the tips were now pointed back across the slope moving only a tiny bit faster than I liked. I swished toward the far side of the hill and gritted my teeth in anticipation of another steep turn. A young skier suddenly zipped by, startling me. I fought to keep my balance. Thankfully, though shaken, I recovered in time to make the turn.

As I continued to work my way down, I started to grin. I was doing it. Maybe not like the pros, but not out of control either. “Not bad for a middle-aged, rusty skier like me,” I thought.
A few long minutes later, I reached the bottom. My daughter was there to congratulate me with a big hug. “Mom,” she said. “I am so proud of you! You conquered your first Rocky Mountain black diamond!”

Now it’s your turn. Write a story about a memorable experience you had over break. It might be a cookie baking event, a concert, a special time with your grandpa…whatever you did that felt important or worth remembering. Try to write about the way things sounded, felt, looked, smelled and tasted to help us experience it along with you. Use strong verbs. (At least 75 words.)

Challenge: After you write your story, reread what you have written. Look for sentences that start the same way. See if you can come up with ways to vary the beginnings. For example, if you have several sentences that start with “I” or “Then I”, try moving parts of the sentence around like this: “I didn’t really want to take a walk with Grandpa, but I didn’t want to listen to my aunts anymore either.” could be changed to “My aunts chattered nonstop, making a walk with Grandpa seem more appealing than usual.”

- As always, write and save your story in a word processing program first.
- Be sure to check it over for capitalization, punctuation and spelling.
- Don’t forget to include your first name and code (eg. Peter Sw#29).