Thursday, April 23, 2015

The End of Something

We sat in lawn chairs in the muddy parking lot, gazing up at the Front Four, and the Nosedive, bits of Perry Merrill, and the bottom half of Gondolier. Cold beers cooled our hands, recently released from sweaty gloves, recently released from a season of pole plants, recently released from computer keyboards and toilet brushes. Around us, grills smoked, centering groups of men and women encamped like a hippie army charged with leading dogs and Frisbees into the twilight of the another season of skiing on Mt. Mansfield.

We skied through spring snow that showed no signs of corning, before descending to our tailgates and our coolers and the rest of our years. Conversations moved easily from food to work, dissipating into punctuated silence whenever a skier in colorful costume beat the shadows down the mountain, or when the woman in the truck across the parking lot stripped off her ski gear, down to her underwear, before re-suiting and drifting off to one of the clutches of boozy friendship.

We circled the makeshift kitchen, a Coleman stove simmering chili and a portable grill flaring from a collection of rendering meat. Bags of chips littered the space between the circle of chairs, and dogs visited the edge of our meals and fires, reenacting a 10,000-year old ritual. The food and talk and spring air mingled into a perfume that suggested something beyond the observable universe, something beyond imagination or inspiration, something we hungered for, our full mouths a poor substitute.

We watched the sun drop behind the ridge of the mountain and felt the temperature plunge five degrees in five minutes and heard vehicle doors slamming shut across the encampment and smelled the last of the smoke fires twisting up into the chilling air. The mountain had won again; the mountain always wins, and a steady stream of cars began moving down into the valley, past the lone cop posted by the resort entrance, past the hulking structures of the soft side, bumping over newly minted frost heaves, where some would peel off into muddy parking lots for more beer, trying to delay the melting runoff that rushed under their feet, as another season, another religion, another passion, loses the contest with time.

Photo courtesy of innkeeper extraordinaire Tom Barnes.