On Friday, the 27th, Timinius returned from his sojourn to the beaver state and swiftly began grooming ski trails at Alturas Lake. Taking as his mantra the official Oregon motto – “She flies with her own wings”, he jumped on the Ginzu groomer and buffed out South Loop, Over the Hill and Sheep Thrills Trails. On Saturday, the last day of February, his plan was to clean up the rest of the trail system. Such a clean up seemed particularly fitting, since February, the last month to be added to the calendar, was named after Februatio, the Roman festival of ritual purification. With Timinius taking over grooming responsibilities, our now idle Finnish grooming master, Divinius, was sitting alone beside the frozen lake. In Finnish, February is called helmikuu, meaning “month of the pearl”. Davinius marveled at this image, as he watched the snow melt on willow branches beside the lake. First it formed lens like droplets. Hanging from the ruddy willow stems, they projected tiny upside down images of the world that delighted Davinius. Then, as the temperature dropped, these multiple world views faded away as the tiny droplets froze solid, leaving behind a mystical string of icy pearls in an alchemical transformation that heartily pleased the old hermit.
Davinius did not set out seeking to groom a perfect ski trail, he knew that was beyond his reach. Grooming with a snowmobile, compaction drag and ginzu groomer, he could not dominate the snowscape the way a piston bully boy could. When nature worked hard against him, he was often just screwed. He couldn’t chew up the frozen snow and and then spit it back out as a perfect corduroy carpet. What he was seeking was more a question of balance, a total gestalt that was more than the sum of its parts. On Wednesday, he worked on the Trail to the Lake. Sculpting the snow with four passes of the drag under a sun drenched blue sky, he felt that the scales were finally tipping back in his favor. Icy hardness was balanced out by the cushy snow carpet he had scraped up, and the chaotic tippy concave trail had taken on the shape of a flat planar surface. Of course, the modest ski trail through the woods was not technically perfect, the corduroy ridges on the skate lane were not really crisp, and the classic tracks weren’t quite “classical”. But when he added in lunch by the lake with the pretty girl from the village, where the sounds of silence were punctuated only the wing beats of a raven passing overhead and the soft moaning of freezing ice, he decided that the total experience was beyond compare and perhaps, if possible, even better than perfection.
Restless and unsettled, Divinius woke from a troubled sleep. He sat bolt upright remembering the newest version of that recurring Sisyphian dream that plagued him. Usually he saw himself pushing a large snowball to the top of a mountain, only to have a group of determined gnomes lever it over to the edge and roll it back down. In this new dream he and his crew of naked groomer men had abandoned their ginzu grooming equipment and were pushing 100 pound potato sacks full of money and labeled with the number 13 towards the top of Over the Hill trail. But just before the summit, the burlap bags would rip, tear and split asunder, spilling their golden treasure back down the slope. “Let’s try it one more time!” Divinius found himself yelling out in encouragement to his grooming acolytes. They scrambled back to the bottom of the hill, no longer naked but suddenly clad in red fleece Patagonia leisure suits and sporting conical red hats. What a dream! Perhaps the old man was worried about the 13th annual Ski Festival fund raiser coming up in just a week and a half. More likely, our confused dreaming Davinius was just overly tired from a long day of grooming Tuesday. He had driven round and round just one loop, trying to flatten, widen and fluff the icy concave trail. That trail, winding along the creek as far as bridge junction and then back Over the Hill, did look much improved he thought. Or was that a dream too? On Wednesday, he decided, he would on continue on to the the lake in his endlessly recurring cycle of grooming.
On Sunday, February 22nd, all of the skate lanes at the Alturas Lake Ski area were groomed except for on North Cabin which was hit on Friday. With an intense drag and ginzu treatment, the old snow on the hard trails was softened enough to please even the most finicky nordic enthusiast. Although cold, the sun was shining with all its might and skiers reported having an excellent time. The aging classic tracks haven’t had an upgrade in a week but were still holding up and providing good and fast double groove transport. The lake reacted to the beaming sun and generally good vibes and was booming with low frequency bass notes to the delight of all. With only 13 days left until the start of the 13th annual Sawtooth Ski Festival, anticipation and excitement is snowballing in the local skiing community. Along with the shriek of the osprey and the chatter of squirrels, the mantra “lucky thirteen, lucky thirteen, lucky thirteen” can already be heard echoing through the sylvan hills.
On Friday, the 20th of February, Davinius “drug the drag” at the Alturas Lake ski trails, flattening and fluffing up North Cabin, Sheep Thrills, and parts of the Trail to the Lake and South Loop. He did not touch the existing classic tracks since they were firmly embedded in the crystaline snowpack and would not yield to his plowing. Skiing conditions were judged to be quite good. He then retreated to his warm but melting snow cave to contemplate the eremitic life, the 20th of February being the feast day of the famous English hermit Wulfric. Looking about his humble abode, he remembered the poem of Thomas Parnell from 1714…
Far in a Wild, unknown to publick View,
From Youth to Age a rev’rend Hermit grew;
The Moss his Bed, the Cave his humble Cell,
His Food the Fruits, his Drink the chrystal Well
As a drop of ice water hit his balding head, Davinius decided that Matthew was right when he said that, “the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” With that, he returned to what he considered his real work, that of realizing the supremacy of the heart in the human being, the work of restoring the reign of the heart, the hermit’s salvation. He smiled as another drop of water ran down his furrowed brow.