Day 5: My Moment of Zen

My husband often complains that our local ski area doesn’t have fast enough lifts.

“Someday, we’ll buy passes at Stowe,” he says. Then after a moment, as though the trails at Smuggs might hear him and be offended, he adds, “Just for the quads. . . Smuggs’s terrain is just as good as any place in the East.”

When we lived in New York City there were certain topics you could always count on making for conversation: traffic, restaurants, the tax on soda. Everybody has something to say about these things. Now that we live in Vermont, it’s the relative pros and cons of high speed quads that always sparks a conversation.

Pro-high-speeders will tell you that the slow lifts are a waste and they deter would-be skiiers from buying tickets at mountains like our dear Smuggler’s Notch. When you have to wait in line for 20 minutes to go on a 20 minute lift ride, you’re missing out on runs you might have been able to do if you were at a mountain with faster lifts. The very old and slow lifts, they say, make people not want to come to our mountain. They’re bad for business. And annoying. And probably unsafe.

Anti-high-speeders will say that if we had newer, faster, bigger lifts the trails would be too crowded and it wouldn’t be enjoyable at all. Not only that, but it would be an incredibly expensive investment that might just bankrupt the mountain once and for all. Look at ___ , ___ , and ___ they will tell you, and point to numerous resorts that got it all wrong and ruined everything when they put in high speed quads. We like our mountain just the way it is, thank you very much, the anti-high-speeders would say. The old lifts have character.

The other day, I was skiing by myself, riding the Madonna chairlift. The ride is about twenty minutes long, not counting the wait in line to get on the lift. This may not sound like a long time, but when it’s 10 below zero, that’s a long time to just be standing and waiting, and then sitting on a cold piece of metal.

I grumbled to myself as the chairlift moved along, cursing the lift, cursing the weather, cursing the fact that I had forgotten to charge up my boot heaters the night before. But a long lift ride has an effect on you especially if you’re by yourself. You can’t help but slow down. You’re stuck there floating along above trees and trails, surrounded by the Green Mountains, with a spectacular view all around you. Checking your phone or doing any kind of work isn’t even an option. It’s as if the lift is forcing you to be mindful (if that’s even possible), saying, “THERE. SEE. STOP IT. JUST SIT HERE AND TAKE IN THE NATURE, WHETHER YOU WANT TO OR NOT.”

Everybody is different of course, but it works for me every time. After a moment of grumbling, I soon forgot what it was I was actually grumbling about, and I just kind of spaced out and had a few moments of zen. As a mother of two with a full time job, teaching a graduate course at night, contributing author to a blog, working on a book… or two, having my brain just be empty is the best thing ever.

So, no, I don’t think Smuggs needs to replace all the lifts with fancy high speed quads. They just need to rebrand the old ones and give them a new image. Name the lifts “zen machines” or “mindfulness rides” and the problem is solved.

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12 thoughts on “Day 5: My Moment of Zen

  1. It’s all about perspective. Sometimes we forget to be mindful and need a little nudge from the outside. Your suggestion for the lift name change is fabulous.

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  2. I love this Beth! My book club read Peace is Every Step and I’ve been trying to find more zen moments myself. This was beautiful.

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  3. Listen:
    the trail hears every word,
    pauses in the rhythm of every step,
    wonders at Us,
    bracing up against the cold of the mountain
    for a moment of Zen
    when we fly,
    unburdened by friction and gravity,
    slowing down only to begin again.

    –Kevin, using an idea from your post to make a poem as comment

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  4. I’m not a skier and I’m not a fan of heights, so I’m not sure I could appreciate nature suspended above it all. However, I enjoyed reading about your Zen moment and can connect it to all those things in life that conspire to slow us down. Whether we do so and shift gears and sink into that moment or simply fret at the delay makes all the difference in the world! “Name the lifts “zen machines” or “mindfulness rides” and the problem is solved.” Perfect ending line!

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  5. Your writing drew me back to my skiing days. When I would stop being so scared of what I needed to do when I got off the lift, or if the lift was particularly slow or long, I would listen to the sound of the snow falling on my mitten, or the crunch of snow and swoosh of skis as a skier below zoomed past. I very much enjoyed reading this, this morning.

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  6. Your post is brilliant. When we are finally faced with these moments we usually feel frustrated (my phone died, this will take too long, etc) but these are finally the times we are faced with ourselves, our own thoughts. This is a beautiful post and I’m so glad you shared.

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  7. Yes! I absolutely agree! Granted, a 20-minute chairlift ride in below-freezing temps is less than ideal, but how fortunate are we to see our corner of the world from a perspective reserved for only those willing to enjoy the ride? We need more of these “forced meditation” opportunities in today’s world. To give up control over how fast we get there, and just be in the moment is a gift.

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  8. I’m in awe of your writing — I’ll be honest. I want to print this out and show it to my kids, it has everything. Blended background, paragraph development, voice, etc, etc, etc, etc!

    Can wait to hear about the book!

    Thanks!

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