I took two 11 hour train rides over the weekend, to and from Truckee. I was not going for a happy occasion, but I was so excited to get away and be back home.
|This is a winter photo of my favorite at-work lunch spot in Tahoe City.|
Later, I took the shuttle/bus combo into town and spent time at the bike shop, catching up with my friend who was working and even filling in while she got a lunch break. My wonderful hosts picked me up at the end of the day and took me home to an amazing dinner of risotto, salad, homemade bread, and grilled chicken.
I wasn't planning on skiing the following day, but days have a way of working out differently than planned. I had offered to fill in at Kids' Camp in the mornings, usually the most challenging time, especially on a Saturday at the beginning of the season. So, there I was, in an oversized uniform shirt from last year, ready and waiting to help register and situate kids. Alas, there were only five that day, and bloody marys to be drunk up by the fire place in the lodge, so I abandoned my post and went upstairs.
I was there to celebrate the life of a friend and former employee who was killed skiing a few weeks before. She was a wild, vivacious woman, fond of costumes and face paint and 100% fun. A life celebration for her would have to include sequins and glitter and a giant pumpkin costume. Naturally.
Spread out along a series of tables in the lodge were some crafty items, a hand-made length of prayer flags, sharpies, and more. The sharpies were to write remembrances of our friend on the prayer flags, and the crafty items were available to improvise costumes. Face paint appeared and sequined head bands that needed feathers arrived, along with a new giant pumpkin that needed to be stitched up. I got to work.
All day long, old friends and colleagues trickled in, wearing the most fantastic costumes and toeing the line of celebration and mourning. People in the lodge kept asking us what was going on, and we took turns talking about how we were here to celebrate a friend's life. (She was killed while skiing at the resort.) The old-timers, the master's racers, they totally got it. Other folks were a bit mystified, but that's ok.
Alpine had generously donated rentals and passes for the crew, so I decided that although putting my feet in ski boots the night before had resulted in tears, maybe I could size up and get in the all-important Last Run with the gang in.
I booted up and headed up the intermediate lift for a practice run.
|Hot Wheels is an 11 minute ride. Plenty of time to take a few photos, call my husband, and enjoy the view.|
Joy and Grief
At the end of the day, the storm was getting worse, but that wasn't going to stop the 40+ people meeting to do a final run together, with the prayer flags. At 3:30, we started assembling.
The plan to go all the way to the summit was cancelled due to the fact that the lift had been closed for weather, but we hopped on Roundhouse and gathered at the top. More and more costumes joined us, and we slipped off our skis and came in close.
|That is someone climbing up the monument in ski boots. Impressive.|
The flags with our pictures and words were strung, first across some trees (until we realized what a hazard that would be with more snow), then around the base of the stone monument. Arms around each other, we were asked to sing.
"Don't worry 'bout a thing...Every little thing's gonna be alright." I was crying and laughing all at the same time- joyful that we were singing that song, together, with sequins and glitter and snow blowing all around. Two of my oldest friends in Tahoe had their arms around me, sandwiched between them, and I held them tightly.
Later in the evening, we went to Squaw and ate and drank beer and champagne in a conference room that was donated. There was a slideshow (picture of me and some of my crew, dressed in uniform, delighted that our program was over for the year) and a chance to speak about our friend. I shared a story about how she came over for dinner one night to learn how to cook indian food, and insisted that I get off my ass and walk down to the bottom of the road and check out the art that I had never really seen. There was a huge table with paper and crafty items set up, and we were encouraged to create a page of memories to be bound into a book and sent to her family.
Back at the house, drinking whiskey and reflecting, I wondered: Is it going to be alright? I don't know. I was blown away by the community that came together for this occasion. I was so pleased to see old staff members who were there to remember, to be present, and not just for the free food and beer. I know that if something happened to me, I'd want the celebration to be just that- a chance for my friends to be together, to celebrate, to remember with joy and not just sorrow and loss.
|Whiskey, grief, face paint.|