Have you ever skied over a forest? This is the time for cards with the requisite snow-draped branches, winter scenes as tradition as if everyone lived in the same climate. Let me check. Jerusalem’s forecast is for about 60F/15C. Not exactly winter wonderland. In the mountains around Seattle the storms are arriving and adding up their snow totals. The record for yearly snowfall was set on a spot I can see from Whidbey. Mt. Baker had 95 feet (29 meters) one year. The previous record? That was on another mountain I can see from the island, Mt. Rainier. It snows here. And yet, the forests survive. Their resilience is echoed in my frugal friends’ lives. It is amazing what can be accomplished with persistence and resilience, something frugal folk are very aware of.
My cards arrived this week. The inspiration for this post is actually from the Christmas cards I had printed from one of my photos: Resilience. The photo comes from my book, Twelve Months at Lake Valhalla, the second in the Twelve Month series set on the border of Washington’s wilderness. For twelve months I visited a lake that sits along the Pacific Crest Trail, or at least I tried to visit. Some months there was just too much snow. Not a surprise considering the lake sits on the ridge that runs between Baker and Rainier. Summer hikes were done in lightweight boots. Winter trips were sometimes a mix of snowshoeing and skiing, each carried on my back while the more appropriate of the two carried me through the woods. Much sweating was involved. I didn’t look elegant.
I never dug down to the tree tops to prove my point, but in that area, some slopes won’t allow an avalanche in the early and late season. Tall conifers lock everything in place. Deep enough into the season though, bushes, then weed trees, then young pines are covered creating unbroken runs for snow slides. The route changed throughout the season as the trail was covered, then as the slide hazard increased, then as the valley snow created questionable and sometimes serviceable avenues. Skip the image of graceful turns and effortless downhill runs. I’m not that good. Bump, flip, crash, repeat. My favorite was the time I was snowshoeing down a snow-covered ravine that was too steep, tight, and bumpy to ski (not an impressive route-finding day), I tripped, flipped, and ended up standing, or at least wobbling, upright. No one was within miles so don’t expect a video.
Spring has its own meaning and timing in the mountains. Elevation means as much as the month. The year I was there, the lake was still frozen in June. The fish spent more time under an ice cap than under blue skies. As the temperature warmed, the depth of the snow became evident. As I skied or snowshoed along, the tops of trees would be revealed. I’m sure that what I traveled across were tall saplings, not ancient residents. Even 95 feet of snow compacts to something less than the tallest trees – maybe only a dozen feet or so. And yet, I was impressed at the seemingly undamaged treetops that were just at boot level. Without drama, as the snows melted, the trees would begin to straighten. As the snowpack accumulated, rather than fight it by standing tall (and catching the strong winds and chilling conditions), they bent, not surrendering, but not fighting either. They turned the snow from a threat into a benefit. Wrapped in white, they were insulated from the worst cold and safe from the winds. As their burial melted, they slowly unfolded.
The strategy may seem bizarre, but every tree in the forest was small enough at one time to necessarily take that approach. And the forest survives and grows.
It is natural to see challenging conditions and challenge them in return. To fight foes. To demonstrate self-worth and pride.
Karate taught me lessons similar to that of the forest, which is interesting to me because Okinawa is not known for its ski resorts. (Though coincidentally, my style’s name roughly translates as Small Pine Forest Karatedo.) Whoever attacks makes themself vulnerable. Do not move unless it is to your advantage. When you can, rather than fight or flight, be still and breath.
2016 has been a weird year and there’s little reason to believe 2017 will be saner. There is always plenty that we can do. With economic and financial issues, it is easy to amplify the work ethic, exercise every lever in our control, and get out that bloody grindstone. In some cases, that will work, bloody nose and all.
This week has delivered a load of weirdness to my situation. No need to go into details. Some of it requires discretion. Some of it is moot. My emotions have been struggling on deciding whether fight or flight is the better response. It’s Friday. I work seven days a week, so the next two days don’t make much of a difference in my work tasks, but the old work habits of thinking of Friday night as a time to unhook remain. I look silly when I replay my reactions to the week’s news. Uncertainty heightened anxiety. The issues are large and significant, but my best response may be much simpler and smaller. I’ve seen that in my frugal friends’ responses to their situations, as well. Recognize the issue, wait for the right time to respond, and resolving an issue can be as simple as flipping a switch.
Persistence and resilience may be my best tools for working on my current situation. Bend, don’t break. Accept a simple hardship, and wait for spring. Notice that entire forests are created from a few seeds that found a way to simply survive otherwise hostile situations.