Another Book.

A while back someone posed me the question, “Given the option of having only one significant book or many books for the rest of my life, which would I choose?”

Although I answered quickly at the time, I’ve still thought about the question from time to time and without much surprise my answer has remained the same since. I’ve also thought a lot about how that choice of one or many books applies to the way I’ve chosen to live my life and pursue the things I do.

The answer to the question was actually pretty predictable based on my personality. I’ve also asked other people close to me the same question and again, almost everyone will answer fairly predictably. The people who answer “one book” definitely have a certain personality, who I’ve lovingly labeled Group A, and the people who answer “many books” fall affectionately into Category 2.  Of course this is totally unscientific, but I’ve found it interesting to see how my friends answer and how closely their answers reflect their lifestyles.

For instance, my uber focused friends who excel at one thing in particular and who will stop at nothing to be at the top of their game typically choose one book. Then there are my friends who dabble in tons of things and are sort of jacks-of-all-trades (and are generally very good at all of them) and they’ll typically choose the many books option. Neither is right and neither is wrong, it’s just who we are and what brings us happiness.

The times I’ve probably thought the most about my personal choice of book options is when I’m traveling. If you know me at all you know that I like vast variety in my travel and aways strive for different, offbeat and unique experiences every opportunity I get.

For me personally, there is nothing like stepping off a plane in a faraway airport and hearing a language I know very little, if anything, about. It puts all my senses on high alert and I’m forced to think outside the box, adjust to the unknown, accept differences (lingual and cultural) and most exciting of all, brace myself for an adventure with indefinite parameters and outcomes. It’s why I’ve always loved independent travel and generally forgo any type of “canned experience” type travel.

With every cab or train ride and every step through a bustling market in a strange city I feel like I’m turning the next page of a spine-tingling book, one I simply can’t put down. And once that book is done, I can’t wait to read another!

I think a lot of that comes from the fact that I have a pretty good ability to let things come and go according to the rhythm of life rather than trying to control and keep everything within safe and known parameters. It’s not that I don’t care or can’t focus on one thing, it’s that I’d much rather see all aspects of life and more importantly to se the honest side of things, the way they really are. I want to experience every aspect in life while I have the opportunity.

If you haven’t figured out by now that my choice of quantities of books is “many”, consider that I love to rock climb, ice climb, run ultra distances, trail run, mountain bike, snowboard, hike and whatever else I can find to do outside. I’m not amazing at any one of those things in particular, but I do get by at an acceptable level at some of them. This year though, a new discipline has caught my attention more than most other pursuits ever have and I find myself thinking about it constantly.

This winter I have committed myself to learn how to telemark ski. I alpine skied years ago and at the time was pretty good at it, but got mind numbingly bored with just sliding around and not really learning anything new. Then, until the start of this season, I’ve only been snowboarding for the past ten or twelve years and once again was getting sort of bored with it, though I still loved ripping big powder turns when the conditions were right!

So, despite the warnings from friends about the ego destroying and mega-frustrating days of learning to telemark, I was still determined to learn it. Well, now that I’ve been at it for a few months I can tell you straight away those warnings were 100% true. There was no masking the primeval frustration during those first few outings. But I was resolved to experience and embrace everything that came with it, just like traveling and experiencing everything with that. I wanted all the emotions from bad to good.

I truly believe that without knowing the lows you can’t ever fully appreciate the highs! For example, a couple of weeks ago when I was up at Vail ripping through two feet of fresh powder, I know for sure the fact that my eyes were rolled back in my head and I was experiencing a sincere powder-gasm was simply because I’d kind of paid my dues early on by laying face down on the hardpack trying desperately to figure out how to turn the damn things and/or get my quads to stop cramping.

I suppose in the end what ultimately led me in the tele direction though was a) to once again try something new and challenging (another book!), b) it looks totally bad ass when it’s done well and c) I wanted desperately to get back to the basics…something I try to do in most all aspects of my life.

Telemark, by the way, is THE original form of skiing and about as basic as it gets. However, for the unenlightened, it’s sort of like still using the old rotary dial telephone in today’s annoying Blackberry/iPhone society. And if you know me, you’ll know that I’ve only had a cell phone for less than a year…and I still wouldn’t have one now if Donna hadn’t bought it for me while I was away ice climbing last spring. In terms of kicking it old school, I guess you could say that tele skis and I were destined for each other.

Now, every time I clip those funny looking bindings to my funny looking boots to skin up some off-piste mountain or load myself onto a chairlift at a resort, I feel exactly the same as when I walk down the jetway in a foreign airport. It’s a new and exciting adventure every single time and I can’t wait to see where it leads next. And maybe that’s why I still feel like the initial frustration and mental smackdowns I took early on are still 100% worth it. New day, new page, new adventure.

I think this tele “book” is one I’ll probably keep reading for a while. And the more I get into it, I suspect it will be a very long book, sort of like the telemark equivalent to Pride and Prejudice, one that I’ll need to pay careful attention to and one that I’ll need to re-read every winter for the remainder of my days. But rest assured that although I’m reading this epically long “tele book” right now, I’ll always be open for scanning the jackets of other books to see if I’d like to read them too. As I’ve discovered in my journey through life so far, when you’re open to reading a new book from time to time, the world definitely becomes a more beautiful and exciting place.

Climb high, paddle far, run long and by all means, free those heels.

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2 responses to “Another Book.

  1. Great writing as always.

    Hmmm… I’ve always been a cross country skier more than downhill. And not on those groomed trails… that’s cheating. Those downhill boots always seemed restrictive. Maybe I should try telemarking? I can’t be any more slower at it than I am at everything else I do.

    Oh and by the way…. as you well know when it comes to books I’m in Category 2- most definitely.

    Let me see, now what are all the books currently or recently in my library:

    Ultrarunning, beer making, growing grapes and making wine, organic vegetable gardening, fruit trees, horseshoeing and black smithing, fly-fishing, hunting, archery, animal tracking, cheese-making, bread making (using sourdough from scratch- no recipes and NO commercial yeast), primitive camping, canoeing, raising poultry and livestock, cutting firewood (yes when done well it can be an art- not only a chore), and playing traditional folk music of the Western Frontier circa 1840 -1920 (guitar, claw-hammer banjo, ukelele-banjo, harmonica, native flute, and just started fiddle..barely… my fiddle playing is really more like scratching than “playing”).

    On my list of new books I’d like to re-discover: beekeeping.

    I had bees from age 12 until I left home for college. I think we’re settled enough for me to invest in some bee hives this year (I haven’t told Jeanne- yet- she’ll find out when the packages of bees, 7,000 each, arrive at our door). They’re amazing and sorta cute hard-working little critters. Nathan is old enough to help me with them. Things have changed much from since I was a kid however. Tracheal mites. Varroa. Colony disappearance disorder. I will have much to re-learn. I look forward to the potential of all that sweet honey- but I must admit that it is the brewer in me who thinks: “Mead!!!!”

    There is one notable and significant exception however. When it comes to spouses- I’m definitely a “one-book” Group A kind of guy.

    There’s no need for any other books when I have the best in the world.

    Tom

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