After Skiing

How many of you, I asked the people in my class, which of you want to give your lives and be writers?...I’ll do it in the evenings, after skiing, or on the way home from the bank, or after the children are asleep...
— Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm

She may have meant snow skiing but I love the picture of writing after skiing. For me, it's on the water always. To ski all summer is a dream come true. For hours this summer, TJ has driven the boat so I could practice and get better. And if I don't count it, does it count? 


So I've kept a ski log, marking each day I've skied since the season began in April. I've also marked my writing days this summer. Why do I write? is a similar question to Why do I ski? I don't expect to be famous or professional at either. But I enjoy the time spent doing both and I always want to be better. 

I went this past weekend to check out a ski club that meets on a farm in Easley. On the property is a large pond that the club members call "Cow Lake," and on the lake is a slalom course. It's the most unexpected thing in the world to be driving past emu, goats, and cows, on a very bumpy gravel road, winding further into the property, knowing that you're on your way to ski. There are two cattle gates you have to get out and open, drive through, then close behind you. But you are almost there now. The tall unmown grass to the left is where you park, and the dock is to the right. The Ski Nautique is as nice as they come, and the people on the dock and on the boat are just as nice.

I got to ski with people much better than myself, and I got to wear a ski vest like the professionals wear. That was a treat, so much so that I came home and asked for an early Christmas present in August. 


I hope this ups my slalom game even more. Maybe I should wear it while I write. The tools can make a difference, I think, but they are no help at all unless you actually show up to do the work. That is why I write, and also why I ski: this is the work that brings me joy and teaches me about discipline and commitment when nobody sees. 

I probably worked in basements in New York City for over a decade before anything that anyone cares about in my life actually happened. When you are in it for your first five, ten years, your only job is to be someone else’s soldier.
— Christina Tosi, Milk Bar founder

I don't think skiing could count as soldiering when I love it as much as I do, but writing has enough of the soldierly qualities for both activities. So I mark my days and keep showing up.


I mark other parts of life too. Perhaps I keep count because it makes me feel like I more solidly own my days and my existence when I can assign a number to an object or an activity. We've been counting chicken eggs since last August when our chickens first laid. Earlier in the summer, I tallied the cucumbers, zucchini, and yellow squash harvested from our garden. I counted how many days our broody hen was broody. At the moment the whiteboard shows the blueberries picked from our yard and the flowers that have fallen from the plumeria plant onto the homeschool room floor (314). The figs have finally started to come in, so there's more to add.


Every egg, every squash, every blueberry, every flower, every fig - these are things I've assessed with my eyes, touched with my hands, tasted with my mouth (minus the flowers). These little productions of life are tangible tokens that I'm here, that my life counts, that showing up and being who I'm meant to be is all that any of us have to do. 

Our rooster had no choice but to crow. Thus, we had no choice but to trade him for a hen. Our grapevine can't help but grow grapes. The lake responds to the rain or lack of. The sun rises and beams hot. The wind blows, the grass grows, the mail comes, the hummingbird hums. The train rattles in my room late at night. We have our summer birthdays and everybody grows up.


We wake up again and are one day closer to school. (I'd stop it if I could.) I fry eggs, make blueberry muffins, eat figs for snacks. I ski. I write. I ski some more. And always, I count my blessings.