It was perhaps the best I have ever played, though it would still take two hands to count the mistakes I know I made. I laid down a nice rhythmic groove and kept with it, letting the melody and dynamics breathe the words of well-known and well-worn standards for a solid hour.
I could not have asked for a more responsive audience. Some hummed. Some sang. Some merely mouthed the words. Many brightened perceptibly at up-tempo tunes, a boogie woogie accompaniment, or old hymns. At one point, a hall wanderer drifted by and commented with delight, “Look, you are putting them to sleep.” Sleep too, is responsive. It is my intention to play music that soothes and calms–to awaken sweet memories of long ago.
Yet it was bitter with the sweet; a very melancholy loving of the ivories. I sense it is the last time I will play for this audience. I grow older and so do they. In an ever changing group of approximately 50 appreciative listeners gathered there, only four were male. The reality is, women will travel more years single and alone than as partners, couples, or families. Performing music is a vulnerability that bares the soul in so many ways.
Self? I think it’s time we have a little talk about choices; specifically the choices you made today and what we can glean from them. First off, I’d like to point out the positive choices you made on this, your last day of vacation. Though the day appeared sunny and I-70 was clear, this time of year it was a good idea to drive directly through the tunnels and over Vail Pass without stopping to dawdle.
Once safely over the passes, it was an even better idea to stop and hike to Hanging Lake. Hanging Lake is always a memorable experience. I know you are an experienced hiker. I also know you are in better shape than any of the previous four or five times you’ve made this 1000 ft ascent. The day was warm down by the parking lot and you contemplated changing to shorts and a tank. I commend you for making the right choice. Jeans are tough and made to last; never mind they also absorb and retain water quickly – particularly snowmelt. Smart Wool socks are also essential this time of year. Good job, Self! Tossing your black hoodie in the car seat and donning a black Loki jacket is also worth points. Not only is a Loki jacket versatile – what with the built-in mittens, adjustable hood and pull-down face mask- a Loki jacket also gives you credibility with the serious outdoor crowd.
But Self, I have to ask what you were thinking when you left your hiking boots under the seat and laced on your aging hiking sneakers. The promoters who quipped, “bald is beautiful,” were not talking about tennis shoe treads. And another thing; what is the purpose of keeping your Yaktrax in the car if you don’t tuck them in a pocket when you set out? Of course you needed nothing of the kind for the first fourth mile of paved bicycle trail.
Nor did you think to go back for boots and ice grips when you saw the rating of difficult at the trailhead, or began to encounter snow a third of the way in.
You did not give up. You pressed on, picking your way over rocks and increasingly long icy patches. What have you learned from this?
You made it to the top. You enjoyed the magnificent view.
But on the way down?
You learned to stop trying to save your butt and to let your butt save you. Forget about dignity and walking upright. You embraced the most useful ranger advice you ever heard; don’t be afraid to sit down if you need to. As a result, you protected your elbows, knees and skull from fracture. You sat down at will instead of unexpectedly. You used every last miniscule muscle in your body. And you made up a new winter sport, sliding down snow packed trails while paddling with your hands That was a full-body workout, Self. Congratulations, you are in better shape than you have ever been. Today, your feelings are alive. You are self-aware–of every muscle and bone in your body.
Putting One Foot in Front of the Other, Hiking for Life!