Colors of the Wind

My life is awesome.

I can’t stop thinking it. I’ve been here in Colorado for four days now, and I am so glad I came. Granted, they have been four very long days. But awesome days none the less. Where do I begin?

I arrived late Friday night and didn’t have the time or energy to do anything other than collapse and sleep for ten hours straight. Saturday was an uneventful day filled with nothing but unpacking, unpacking, and unpacking some more. I have A LOT of stuff. So much stuff, in fact, that I had to cancel an order of an additional full suitcase that my parents were going to bring along when they visit from home (just in case you’re interested, my life currently consists of 3 large suitcases, 1 carry-on, 1 very full ski locker and an entire carload of things that wouldn’t fit into the aforementioned storage units. Plus the extra filled suitcase sitting in my bedroom in Florida. And all of this after filling at least 3 bags from my closet for the trash and to donate.).

Sunday was my first day of training. I will admit, if I hadn’t been so excited to be there, it probably would have been a little painful – eight hours of sitting in a very large conference room listening to people talk about policies and procedures. I guess it’s inevitable when you’re working for as large a company as Vail Resorts. Still, I find it amazing how much they can manage to say without saying very much at all. Anything to avoid a lawsuit I guess.

But I did get to meet lots of amazing people. There were about 150 in training that day – all new ski instructors. About a third of them were part-time, and the rest were full-time like me. A lot of people were concerned with the high number. We’re not guaranteed work to begin with, so with so many others on staff, people were very nervous there wouldn’t be enough classes to go around. Then we found out Keystone employs almost 400 part and full-time instructors. That didn’t comfort us either. But when those fears were voiced we were told that we had to trust them. That in this economy they couldn’t afford to overhire just as much as we couldn’t afford not to work. And that the mountain averages 4 million visitors a year. If just an eighth of that number signs up for a single ski or snowboard lesson, we’ll all be working overtime.

I could tell you about everything they told us that day, but it would be tedious, exhausting, and frankly uninteresting. The one highly entertaining thing I did learn was the Keystone term for a lost child. It is strictly forbidden to ever say out loud to anyone – coworkers and supervisors included – that you’ve lost a child from your group. Apparently the word ‘lost’ instills too much anxiety and they want to be careful not to freak out any guest who might overhear. So how do you report a child who has wondered from the group? You simply inform your supervisor that the kid is performing an ‘independent study.’ I love it.

Anyway, the drive back from training the first day was really the first time I got to appreciate how beautiful the drive itself is, as I was way to preoccupied with first-day-jitters that morning. You drive on the edge of Lake Dillon before floating down into the valley, surrounded by mountains on all sides. All of this was enhanced on this particular drive, as the sun had just set. The peaks were dark now, but sharply outlined by a still bright sky. And the clouds were lit up bright pink by the setting sun. As I enjoyed this amazing view, it just so happened that my iPod – on shuffle of course – began to play ‘Colors of the Wind’ from one of my favorite movies of all time – Pocahontas. And as the chorus of the song blasted through my speakers, it hit me:

Can you sing with all the voices of the mountains? Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?

YES! YES! I CAN! I CAN! I thought to myself with excitement, as the song seemed to magically illustrate itself before my eyes. The singing mountains, the painted wind – right in front of me! Right now!

Don’t worry single reader, after my initial excitement (comprising of just a little bit of jumping up and down and a lot of singing at the very top of my lungs), I did have enough sense of self to be slightly embarrassed – though in no way ashamed. In fact, although Pocahontas has always been my favorite Disney Princess, I’ve never related to the song as much as I do now. In a lot of ways, it explains perfectly the epiphany I’ve had in the past few months, and the new direction I’ve decided to live my life headed in. The words to the song were pretty before, but now, more than ever, I truly understand what they mean. And I believe in them.

For anyone who has spent a little too much time from this beautiful film, here’s a little refresher of the lyrics:

You think you own whatever land you land on

The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim

But I know every rock and tree and creature

Has a life, has a spirit, has a name

You think the only people who are people

Are the people who look and think like you

But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger

You’ll learn things you never knew you never knew

Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon?

Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grinned?

Can you sing with all the voices of the mountains?

Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?

Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?

Come run the hidden pine trails of the forest

Come taste the sunsweet berries of the Earth

Come roll in all the riches all around you

And for once, never wonder what they’re worth

The rainstorm and the river are my brothers

The heron and the otter are my friends

And we are all connected to each other

In a circle, in a hoop that never ends

How high will the sycamore grow?

If you cut it down, then you’ll never know

And you’ll never hear the wolf cry to the blue corn moon

For whether we are white or copper skinned

We need to sing with all the voices of the mountains

We need to paint with all the colors of the wind

You can own the Earth and still

All you’ll own is Earth until

You can paint with all the colors of the wind

I know the latter part of this post has already been unapologetically corny, but I have to add to it with the absolutely unavoidable question: Can you paint with all the colors of the wind? Because I can. And I am all the better for it.

PS – As beautiful as Pocahontas’s message is, there is one grave mistake she makes in this montage: don’t take a cub from it’s mama, even to prove a point. I promise you won’t turn out looking so pretty.

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