Winter Warriors

<Originally included in the SPEAK performances produced live in Routt County, CO with the Young Bloods Collective > , January 2017

 

I live in a valley nestled between the snow-capped hills of northern Colorado.  In the dead of winter, the shortened days barely give enough time for the sun to clear the horizon before it is put to rest again for the night.  Some mornings, we wake to a cold so profound it can take your breath away.  Frost paints intricate designs on windowpanes.  Boot steps crunch and squeak on the snow. The landscape is entirely draped in white.  For many creatures, human and otherwise, this time of year encourages hibernation – a period to curl inwards and wait out the storm.  But for me, and for the band of fierce winter warrior women who surround me in this frosted valley, the winter galvanizes our more adventurous instincts. 

A quick break for a deep breath and a couple photos. Hahn's Peak ascent, Park Range.

A quick break for a deep breath and a couple photos. Hahn's Peak ascent, Park Range.

We rise early, and take deep cold breaths of morning air.  Steam swirls above a thermos of coffee and ski equipment clicks into place.  The women with whom I am traveling through the backcountry today start cracking jokes about stiff muscles and sore feet and the minutiae of our daily lives.  As we hike, the conversation quiets when the ever-thinning mountain air begins to leave us breathless.  I survey the women around me as we labor uphill.  Our bodies are lean and strong – but not out of any desire to mimic the cover models of fashion magazines.  We have to be strong to keep up with each other.

A Memorial Day Weekend snowstorm in the spring of 2017 meant late-season powder turns (if you 'earned' them).

A Memorial Day Weekend snowstorm in the spring of 2017 meant late-season powder turns (if you 'earned' them).

These women could move mountains themselves just by power of their imaginations.  I gravitate towards their company for advice, or for perspective, but most of all I pull them near because we share a common shimmering thread of passion between us all.  We share a love for the beautiful earth around us and for seeing how far our legs will carry this tireless weight of desire along the path. 

As we approach the summit, the sun has risen higher and glints off our goggle lenses.  We’re shivering with sweat when we cease movement and are reminded of the chill that surrounds us.  Each woman’s face around the circle means something different and unique to my story.  One has backpacked through flashing lightning alongside me.  One has made me laugh so hard I cried on multiple occasions. One has captained a raft that pulled me out of whitewater when I was certain I would drown while wearing a tutu and a straw hat.  One has cuddled with me in bed when I was so shredded by heartbreak that I couldn’t bear to be alone.  One of these women carried me on her back down a steep scree field in Wyoming when I took a lead rock climbing fall and nearly broke my ankle. These women have taught me so much about myself and my capacity to be better, be stronger.  They contain multitudes.  

Winter Warriors are also Summer Warriors :)&nbsp; Colorado River at Pumphouse, June 2017.

Winter Warriors are also Summer Warriors :)  Colorado River at Pumphouse, June 2017.

On this bright blue-sky morning overlooking the valley ranches far below, our band of women preps to drop off the summit and ski the first pitch.  Brightly colored ski jackets pop out against the white backdrop and form a rainbow.  Each woman can be recognized by her colors as we grow wings and fly downhill through the forest glade.

We were taught as little girls that we could grow up and do anything - we could be anything we wanted to be.  It was the 80s, a waning end of a women’s liberation movement.  We were exposed to trite images of women in business suits with massive shoulder pads cavorting with their male colleagues.  And yet today, several decades later, a stalwart glass ceiling still pops up above us from time to time, reminding women that there is still work to do.

In the wild, with this band of intelligent, fiercely strong, independent women around me, there is no space for a ceiling of any kind – glass or otherwise.  It is a place that belongs entirely to us.  We carry it with us wherever we go, for it is cultivated within our own hearts and minds.  There are no barriers.  Life is far too short to spend even a moment considering the things we can’t do.  Instead, we dwell upon the infinite potential of our mighty existence.    

Topping out at Starr Pass during the 2017 Grand Traverse backcountry ski race with my partner in crime. Photo courtesy GT staff.

Topping out at Starr Pass during the 2017 Grand Traverse backcountry ski race with my partner in crime. Photo courtesy GT staff.

 

The women I know and love in this mountain town are capable of great things.  I would trust any of them to help me navigate through storms both literal and figurative.  They would go into battle for me, and I for them.

We are a new order of winter warrior women.

Laraine Martin