What I have learned this week:
I learned to canter!!!
I learned that I get extremely cranky when I can’t ski in the winter, and that goes double for not being able to ski because I have a cold. Clearly there are some kind of brain chemicals involved when I ski. Probably the same ones that get released when a junkie shoots up a fresh load of smack.
I learned that I hate the college textbook publishing industry. They ought not to be releasing new editions unless there is something substantive that has changed. “Needing to update the year from 2009 to 2012 in the homework problems” does not constitute a “substantive change”. These books are absurdly expensive – no more so now than when I was in school, after you take changes in the CPI into consideration – but when I was a student, I just had to pretend I was paying for my books with Monopoly Money, because if I stopped to think about the opportunity costs of my textbook bill…all of the other things that money could buy, like an entire month’s rent on my apartment, for example…I just wanted to faint. Or vomit. Or buy a hatchet and go on a rampage. Or, maybe, just burst into tears and jump up and down screaming. Now, at least, there’s a slightly cheaper option for students who are willing to read the book online. And I mean “slightly” cheaper. It’s still an affront.
I learned that the Agony of the New Edition isn’t something that just affects students and their wallets. I just had to go through my entire course, item by item, reading the entire bloody book again from start to finish – and let me tell you, Intermediate Accounting doesn’t yield a light or enjoyable “read” – to make sure that my notes, examples, etc. still jive with the book. At least, thanks to the URI from Hell, I didn’t have to miss out on any skiing to do it. The truly annoying thing about all this is that I knew 1) that there cannot have been any substantive changes, because the Financial Accounting Standards Board hasn’t released any new important updates that affect the course content – so any changes I did meet were going to be 100% superficial, and 2) that the Financial Accounting Standards Board is sitting on an important update that is definitely going to affect the course content, and as soon as they get their act together, it’s going to mean another damned edition. And that one is just going to emphasize that this one was totally pointless. So the students have to shuck out bucks for a brand-new textbook instead of a used one, and there’s not any really good point to it, other than greed. Blasted idiots.
I learned that not being able to ski makes me cranky, that goes double for a wicked bad head cold being the reason, and it goes TRIPLE for adding pointless, useless major work projects on top of it.
That takes care of what I learned Sunday through Thursday.
I learned that horses know who is supposed to be on the farm, and when. The drive hadn’t yet been plowed out when I arrived to meet the Farrier of the Gods. I drove down the road to a pull-out and hiked back in. The horses that have runouts on their stalls were all outside, and gave me deeply suspicious looks. If they had been dogs, they’d have been barking. And, like dogs, once I called them by name and let them sniff my hand, they remembered that I am a Known Individual, and that my presence there at that hour was not a Threat, just an Irregularity.
I learned that Huey the Wonder Horse wakes up in a good mood. The barn was still dark when I slipped in, and I left it that way. Huey knew I was there, and while he knew that this was not a normal time for me to be there, he was happy about it anyway. God, I love that horse. He came and stood by the stable wall so I could give him a great big long lovely scratch on the neck. Then he let me play with his lips and his nose, which he usually doesn’t do. But I loved it. I got to tickle his lip and make it pointy without him deciding that my fingers might be carrots and that he needed to investigate with his teeth. We just hung out for about a half hour like that. It was the best half-hour of the week, and that includes the bit later on where I got to go skiing, and that says A Lot.
I learned that Huey’s feet are in very good condition, and that the Farrier of the Gods has a more sophisticated understanding of the angles on his right front hoof. He thinks that the angle issue is suspensory, not intrinsic to the hoof. This is good and it is not good. If he were showing lame, it would be very bad. I also learned that the shoes he had on before were far too small, although the FOTG said he could understand the temptation to make them that way given the configuration of Huey’s feet. Action Plan A is to put on shoes of the proper size in the spring, and see how that goes, before tinkering with anything.
I also learned that dogs think Hoof Shavings are a Super Tasty Treat.
I learned that my instincts not to drive into a snow squall or to get a lift ticket when there’s a high wind advisory are good. And I learned this the Easy Way, by going with them rather than the Hard Way, by ignoring them and Coming To Grief.
I learned that I can lunge my horse in the snow, if it’s the right kind of snow.
I learned that my horse, while being lunged on the snow, can maintain a working trot while dragging his muzzle through the snow in order to scoop it up and eat it. When I learned that, I started to laugh, and said “Huey!” and he stopped, raised his head to look at me like “What?” and had his muzzle totally coated with snow. It was so silly I nearly fell over, I was laughing so hard. So I also learned that my horse likes to eat snow.
I learned that the suspensory thing the FOTG noted is probably right, since the equine chiropractor noted it too (and gave me some good stretches to do with him to improve it).
I learned that wherever Huey the Wonder Horse was before, he got chiropractic adjustments. The only bit he quibbled with was the neck adjustments, because he was tender there (and I knew he was). I got to watch the chiro do an adjustment on a skittery horse (and I got to hold the lead rope to keep him from going nuts or backing into the wheelbarrow). She didn’t push him, but managed to sneak it in around the edges until the penny dropped for him. You could see something very like “Hey! Don’t do that! It’s uncom…oh, hey! That feels so much better! Do it again!” pass through his mind. When I left him off in the paddock, he was curling himself around. I had no experience at all with equine chiropractors (and I was fervently hoping I wouldn’t be subjected to some kind of snake oil thing) but I am impressed. I’m impressed with the outcome – he was clearly moving better than he had been – and I’m impressed with the chiro herself, who did not make it all out to be skeletal and want to come 3x per week or something equally unsustainable. No, she laid some things down to skeletal, some to muscular, recommended equine massage as a post-chiro treatment (said having it done before would make her job easier, but having it done after would be better for the horse), gave me a program of stretches to work on with him, and suggested hooking up again in 8 weeks. Totally reasonable, I thought.
I learned that the little neighborhood ski area that is located a good 40 minutes away from any hotel isn’t crowded, even when it’s Saturday afternoon of MLK weekend and we’ve just had our first major snowstorm of the year and it’s powder.
I also learned that even though I’m totally used to skiing on powder skis, I don’t know a damned thing about skiing on actual powder. It’s clear I’m going to have to take a lesson on that, but given the sparsity of Powder Days in New England, it may take a while. In the meantime, I stick to the groomers.
I learned the size of the yawning gulf between the Skier I Am Today and the Skier of Yesteryear. As in, this time, last year. I went down a run that I distinctly remember totally intimidating me when I went to this ski area for the first time in mid-January of 2011. I clearly remembered spending a lot of my time on that run thinking “Holy shit!! How am I going to do that?” Only, yesterday, I couldn’t find those spots on the run. And I was looking for them. And the other run I did that day, a big sweeping drop-off to the base, that seemed like it was a mile long and straight down before? Yesterday, it was a nice sweeping expanse of badly-groomed packed powder (the grooming team at this ski area sucks) that would be perfect for doing some big GS carving turns on my powder skis (yes, they can, yes, I do. It takes more effort than it would on an all-mountain or a carver, but it can still be done). I bombed down it three times before departing for other territory.
And then, without a map, and without any more information than what I could get from a lift-buddy (the top of the run is in great condition, the bottom, after the cutoff, is kind of scraped up) I hared off onto runs that I didn’t know anything about. Well, “anything other than that they’re not double-black diamonds and covered with icy moguls” that is, because I am Adventurous, not Insane. It was a great run, too. And I got to the cutoff, where I could go back to a big fat groomer…or I could go straight onto the part of the run described as “kind of scraped up”. I regarded it. There wasn’t a lot of potential for being badly scraped up, because this was obviously a difficult run, and “badly scraped up” is something that really only happens to easy runs that have a lot of novices on them. And there was no way that a sane, sober novice would even have thought briefly about going down this run. A drunk lunatic novice, yes, but fortunately, there aren’t many of those, and they tend to be Self-Limiting Phenomena anyway.\
This run just dropped right away under my feet. It was marked a “blue” (intermediate difficulty for this particular hill) but it reminded me a lot of portions of the “black” (advanced/expert difficulty runs) back at my Home Mountain. And I’ve taken those. And conditions were good. And, in the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, “sometimes you gotta say what the f***.” So I said “What the f***” and headed down. Yeah, some portions were a little scraped off, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t deal with. And the rest of it was great, and I did it in good style.
And that’s when I learned the best thing of Saturday: I’m a very good skier. Not a great skier. Not an expert. But I’m good enough to ski the mountain and not worry about what’s on the trail because I’ll be able to deal with it when I get there. Bumps? Hate them if they are huge, hard, and icy, love them if they’re soft and fluffy. But I can deal either way. Ice? I hate it – I mean, I really hate it, but I can deal with it when it shows up. Boilerplate? Not a fan, but I know what to do. And I know how to minimize any of that stuff by skiing the margin, and I don’t worry about running off into the trees or falling off the side. I don’t go unescorted down blacks, because steep and huge hard icy bumps is something I want to avoid entirely, but most of the mountains here are blues, and I rock the blues. Time for another ski lesson, I think, because it only gets better from here.