WASHINGTON D.C., April 25, 2013 — Searching for a unique place, somewhere in the world, seems to be at the top of the list for many people. In this quest, people may seemingly forget to enjoy each step, while rushing through the experience.
It may not be about experiencing a new area in a distant country. The very location may not even be a place, but rather a season of the year in Squaw Valley, CA.
Years ago, Stockton and Mendiola stumbled across happiness as they visited the Squaw Valley Mountains, smeared with snow, crawling with vacationers, protected by locals, and blanketed with a happiness, emerging during winter.
The most glorious vision that deep in the ski season, was new snow falling, spreading across the entire resort. The two friends continuously found time to ski Squaw Valley and appreciate a region where some people live and others vacation.
But today, laughter sounded in each area of the open KT Bar verandah. Bottles struck the wooden tables as one skier declared, “This is my favorite day,” stopping to hold up his glass, cheering his friends then stating, “I am with my friends, at the base of KT-22. Let’s hope for new snow to keep Squaw open for a few more days.”
It was hopeless to find a seat in the afternoon. The lifts were full, the outside bar had lines, people took the time slow, and the day seemed to pause with joy. The surrounding peaks, Granite Chief, KT-22, and Squaw Creek set the stage for the valley.
On that clear day everyone smiled, while the glare off the snow called out to the avid skier. Ski boots snapped across the deck, almost sounding off lines of soldiers, marching in unison.
They both felt local in Squaw. Although, Stockton was not from there, she realized that she was being invited into a home. She was not traveling. She lived there, even for a day. That was Squaw Valley.
There was only one way to slightly destroy a day. “How are the conditions?” That was the worst question anyone could ask. Stockton simply responded, “What does it matter? I am at Squaw.”
That was enough for her. Closer to the sky, in thin air, makes life far better. Stockton attempted to justly accept the grim idea of the arriving spring with casual banality.
She realized the surreal understanding, that by being in Squaw Valley, it felt like she was stealing an experience and living a moment of fiction. Mountain life, being on the slopes, lifts closing, and evenings reading her favorite author made Stockton feel as if she may not be able to find herself after the ski season closes. When she was in the mountains, it was as if she could kiss the words in the novel, and taste each experience described in her preferred book.
Mendiola followed by affirming, “I got off work at 5am and drove from Pleasanton. When I arrived, Stockton had a beer for me. And yes, being in the mountains is enough.”
Mendiola cherished the drive on I80, in the early morning before the ski traffic. Upon arriving, he immediately had a few drinks in the Squaw Valley Lodge, in one of his customary rooms, 349 or 351. Both overlooked the KT-22 Lift. Afterwards, he would walk over to the Auld Dubliner.
There, he took a few more drinks with breakfast, then laid his head on the bar, took a nap and decisively at about 1pm he would finally find himself on the slopes. That is the sort of day that fashioned happiness for Mendiola. He was never in a rush at Squaw.
As the sun began to set, winter’s end in Squaw Valley made for the longest night of the year. It made Mendiola focus on what it would be like for a year without snow.
Spring would bring festivals and water skiing on Lake Tahoe, but also bring bare mountains without the snow blanketing the peaks. A year without snow would almost feel as if Stockton and Mendiola would be lost.
Stockton said, “I am adrift without winter, but if I lose myself I have the natural ability to create. I must find another source of tranquility, while the snow is gone.”
Her body went limp, without form, like a flag sagging without wind. She said her good bye to the winter, and smiled at Mendiola.
“What?” Mendiola asked.
“I was saying,” Stockton began again, “I am going to be confused without winter, but there is one way to think about it.”
“Really?” Mendiola said with sarcasm. “What is that?”
“Winter is coming.” She beamed with excitement of that one idea. Her full lips and green eyes sparkled with bliss, as the deep white snow glared off the bottom of the slopes, and the sun fell off to the West. The lights to the showcase stage were out.
A winter in Squaw Valley offers the experiences some people naturally seek in distant lands. Stockton and Mendiola do not need locations in a distant country. They simply need the snow, the slopes, the naps, the verandah, and the Squaw Valley Mountains. These memories become important possessions, and a longing for the next winter season.
“Global Henry” (Traveler to over 120 countries)
Author: No More Heroes
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