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Eric Engel

Comes the white water rapids

We couldn’t stop laughing. My friend and I had made it to the bottom of the mountain, call it a mole hill if you’re in Illinois, and were exchanging with great exhilaration as to the highlights of the stumbling and bumbling journey down the slope in which we’d just partaken. It was the first time my feet had ever strapped on a snowboard, and it was the last day since, that I considered throwing on a pair of skis instead.

I contemplated snowboarding before that wintry morning but had never taken the time, or made the decision to do so. My parents threw us on skis when we were still in diapers, and I have enjoyed the skipping stone syndrome my feet used to encounter, lumping through each self-inflicted bodily assassination attempt on a fall from the heavens that has moments on earth.

My father jumped on a board once but didn’t enjoy it, as his feet were misaligned due to the instruction, or lack thereof, at the lodge. All factors aside, though, I kept noticing conception of the shred inching toward the front burners of my brain, so one day after my friend had asked me to go for the umpteenth time, I finally leaped from the edge and said yes.

I have not skied since. The skittering glide and I were made for each other, and each single-barrel slip down gravity’s backbone becomes the freedom of imagination as expansive as space. I fell a few times that first run, and many times since, but my instincts come to play in the powder each day the rain falls white, and I can think of no better way to use a January afternoon than in motion atop the frozen ocean.

So this old friend and I planned a day trip up to Chestnut Mountain in Galena recently, but as plans unravel, so then do new ones form. We didn’t take the drive north, so I anguished his eardrums to the tune of repetitive invite until his reluctance vanished like a breath of cool winter air. He ventured to my mountain, call it a pasture, and we tied one of Dad’s old water ski tug lines to the jeep and proceeded into the dreams that exceed the wastelands of prior disappointments.

We roared with laughter as we took turns tooling around the countryside as if our tires invented the ice below, that their rubber surroundings might turn to skates. Barreling through the caps, we shattered the reality of a night without flight, tossing our bodies onto their sides for the sake of the upright they strained to maintain. Moments of pure acceptance met the spray from the track radius with hearty conviction, as our eyes rose to the midnight sky with rightful gratitude for the silver surf.

There have been moments when my trepidation concerning any and many given circumstances easily outweighed my ambitions of attempt, and that aspect of my decision-making process has not withered to extinction, but I now trust that what is taking place can only compliment what will come to pass in the future. If I had not yet snowboarded, I’d still be enjoying a set of skis, and ever more curious about the panel waxed. If we had made it to Chestnut that day, or if we had missed out on the backlands as well, I’d still be looking forward to the next rush that rides my hide as much as I ride it.

Give in to the embrace of knowledge, and gain the acceptance of registering few moments into the sum of all, instead of all moments into the remainder of few. I have been blue, but the sky has too, so if an invite drifts upon me today, who am I to turn it away?

We’re never falling, we’re just amidst the time before flight.

Eric Engel, formerly of Tiskilwa but now of Peoria, can be reached by e-mail at eazywritin84@yahoo.com.