a heavenly trip

My dorm took a trip to the southern side of Lake Tahoe at Heavenly Ski Resort, right on the border of the quaint Northern California and an unknown Nevada. I had paid to go on this trip well in advance, but up until 2:30am on the night before our departure, I questioned whether or not I actually wanted to go. I wasn’t going skiing, my frostbite-ridden fingertips are not the biggest fans of the cold; what could I possibly get out of an escape from a place I already enjoyed?

When you pop the bubble that surrounds you as a comfortable college student situated in suburbia, you finally begin to breathe, despite the lower pressure. I feel as if my lungs were filled with a different kind of air, the kind of air you can learn from, the kind of air that clears your nose when you're sick and stuffy from the emotions that come from being a college freshman. In short, the trip taught me many things, such as:
  1. The ascent to Heavenly is a steep one. I have proselytized the muscles in my jaw to pop my ears and open my eustachian tubes on command.
  2. I do not like In 'n' Out fries. They look very appealing, until sight is no longer the sense you use to experience them, and suddenly you’re chewing, and chewing, and chewing...
    (The burgers are pretty good, though.)
  3. Most importantly, Northern California scenery is beautiful.

I say this as if I have never seen a lake before, or a river flowing clear with intermittent white suds, or an evergreen tree, or a thorn bush scraping the weathered skin right above my ankles; or maybe I have just forgotten what it feels like to be as careless as running water. Northern California scenery is nothing more than a naïve childhood in the winters of North Carolina. I rediscovered my jeunesse while sliding on a frozen lake, while holding a pinecone too tight, while fumbling in gloves to roll up my jeans two times and checking for that lively shade of mahogany.

Funny how we only have to relearn the seminal moments in our childhood when they don’t traumatize us. Joy is never an active memory; it sits at the back of the hippocampus like an insecure freshman in a lecture too large to care about it, while melancholy occupies the front row, taking notes and asking—no, demanding—all the questions to an apathetic professor. Sadness is certainly smarter and stronger than happiness, or at least it has more endurance. It has learned to bear the brief bats and beatings of silver smiles and tainted tongues in order to play the long game.

That is to say: I’m glad that a pinecone and running water hold the best parts of me. Nature never fails to ground me. This trip was necessary.

I didn’t realize how much I would miss walking on snow until Tahoe. But in that, there is specificity: none of that powdery, soft snow from a fresh storm; I mean the kind of snow that has fomented for several days, has become angrily complacent and firm in the cold, and crunches in all the right ways when the heel of your boot first breaks ground. There’s something all too satisfying about feeling the ground instantaneously fall from beneath you while you can bask in the thought that you’re not going to sink. The danger is there, but you simply fail to care.

Or maybe I just like the sound.