Back in December, when I was having dinner with my friends, the Jo(h)ns, a trip to the Swan Mountains for yurt skiing in March was mentioned. In a fit of bravado, I said, “I wanna go…”. Mentioned it to Emerald, and she said, “Can I come, too?” A few minor logistical discussions later, it was determined that the yurt held 8, there was room for the both of us, money exchanged hands, and I dug Jim’s old skis out of the resale bin at our local outdoor shop for the trip organizer to trial. It was a new place for me, and half the group unknown. How would everyone get along?
Emerald, in fact both kids, have been back country skiing to yurts since they were in utero. I was 5 months pregnant with Emerald the first time I hauled her into the Wallowas. I couldn’t reach my own bindings, I was wearing Jim’s old snow pants, and every time I fell, I had to remove my pack, remove my skis, turn over onto all 4’s just so I could stand back up. 3 years later, Jim drug Emerald up in a cargo sled, she spent the whole time playing in a snow fort that the boy triplets had built, and I learned how to not fall when pregnant with Jasper. The next time we braved the trip, the kids were under their own steam. Jasper, fueled with a multiple course breakfast, sung his way up the trail. Emerald, in shape for gymnastics but not for anything aerobic, complained most of the way. Jim hauled water, shoveled a path to the outhouse, and split kindling. I built fires, cooked food, and worried about how everyone was getting along. A yurt is a small space for 4 people when the weather and snow are not ideal. We did beacon practice in the graupel. The snow turned to rain, Jim headed out to ski, and the kids and I built snow bunnies instead of carving turns. We created memories. After a few more years, we forgot the bad parts of that trip, and ventured into another set of back country yurts in Big Creek, ID. As a surprise, Jim had the food catered. There was a wood fired hot tub, wine, board games. The snow was good. We had snowmobile support. Emerald had a blast, Jasper got sick so I sent Jim out skiing and stayed back with him one day. It was relaxing, but I missed the work. I like to shovel and haul wood. I like the skin up as much as the ski down. I like to cook over a propane burner. I like getting up to make the coffee. I still worried about how everyone was getting along.
On our Swan Mountain trip we had snowmobile support to haul all of our gear and food and to knock 6 miles off of the 10 mile ski in and out. There was shoveling to do, wood to split, food to cook, dishes to do. A yurt is a small space for 4 people, it is even smaller for 8. I worried how everyone would get along. Emerald is now in phenomenal shape…both for breaking trail on the skin up and the ski down. She is braver than her mom, and I trust her knowledge and abilities. She instigated the beacon practice, and helped her friend Perry dig the Rutschblock to determine snow stability. Emerald is rapidly becoming as beautiful a skier as her dad was. It was Emerald’s first yurt trip since Jim died. I knew there would be some bittersweet landmines of grief. I worried that she would only remember the good parts of all of those childhood trips, and forget the lessons of how to laugh at the weather and help with the work. But, Emerald also has not forgotten how to build a snow bunny, how to relax in the sunshine, and she always pitches in with chores. 8 people in a small yurt, 4 days in the back country. We all got along just fine…..I shouldn’t have worried.
There were some harder times. When I can’t see, I can’t ski…and I get scared. One person in our group got sick, and missed out on a day of skiing. Emerald hit a few landmines of grief, but I did not know until the drive out….hard to see tears when all I can see is her backside headed up the trail. Breaking trail and camp chores are hard physical work, and stereo snoring impacts everyone’s sleep. People have moments of doubt and fussiness. On my drive home yesterday, I thought about my worry. I thought about my extreme wish to have everyone just get along. I decided that, just like the weather and the snow conditions, this is something that is simply out of my control. I stopped peacemaking between Jim and his kids years ago. I believe that all people are basically good inside, their intentions are noble, and they care about the person next to them. Looking at the cumulative 300+ pictures from this trip, the smiles are endless. I need to stop worrying.