Once again, it’s been quite a while since my last update. I think I was waiting for some big news or event. The truth is that life has been pretty quiet since the November festivities died down. My days have more or less revolved around two things: healing my very stubborn feet and ankles, and trying to find a place to live for the season.
Let’s start with housing. I was offered my old job at Keystone again in September, and accepted without thinking too much about it. After last year’s amazing ski season, A and I were both eager to come back. Last year we were able to get a lease signed in Summit County by October. We didn’t even see the place in person before turning in the paperwork. We were lucky. Other than some banging pipes at the end of the season, everything worked out smoothly.
This year has been much more difficult. We arrived in Colorado on the 30th still without a place to live. We flew into Durango, as our cars were parked at A’s parents’ place in the area. We spent ten days doing nothing but scouring ads on Craigslist and in the newspaper. We called and emailed dozens of people and came up with several leads, all of which fell through. On the 11th my parent’s condo in Copper opened up, and we drove the seven hours to stay there and be closer to any prospective landlords who might want to meet us. We got closer and closer to finding a place. We viewed several properties, met with potential roommates, but nothing seemed to work out. Until yesterday.
My parents had gone out to Leadville, a small town about 30 minutes from Copper, to get some cushions reupholstered and were nice enough to bring the local newspaper back to A and I. We looked through the classified section and responded to an ad about apartments available. The man had several places for rent, but after talking to A a bit on the phone suggested we may like a room in their house that they didn’t typically advertise but rented out to the right people. We set up a meeting to view the place, and off we went.
Leadville is a beautiful little town set high in the mountains with a historic, old-west style main street and lots of Victorian homes. The house we pulled up to was a big blue mansion, well cared for and over one hundred years old. Out potential landlords were a husband and wife, a retired geologist and teacher, and were waiting for us with hot coffee prepared on an antique stove. The house was beautiful. The people friendly. And the price was right. They only wanted $300 a month for both of us, utilities included. To put that into perspective, the other places we were looking at were between $1000 and $1500 a month, without utilities. It’s not cheap to live in paradise.
The icing on the cake was that the couple traveled a lot and only planned on being home a week or so a month. So even though we would technically share the common spaces with them, we’d spend most of the time with the entire place to ourselves. And to put a cherry on top – they have a dog!
It was an easy decision for us. Wait around to see if one of the dozen or so leads we had out on places 3 times the price would pull through, or put an end to our homelessness and bunk up in a Victorian mansion. The cons: a 30 minute drive to Copper (though the scenery is breathtaking), roommates (though part-time), and the name of the street the house is on happens to be the same as a famous horror movie (good thing I’ve never seen Nightmare on Elm Street). The pros: saving a buttload of money, living in a gorgeous house one block from main street, puppy!
We’re moving our stuff out there tonight.
And now the not so fun stuff. It’s been about two months since I returned home from the Camino, which is crazy. Sometimes it seems much more recent, but most of the time it seems very far away. The experience was so different from anything happening in my every-day life that even though the memories are clear, the entire trip still doesn’t quite seem real. I’m very grateful for that.
There is, however, one nagging reminder that the walk happened not so long ago. Tendinitis. Yes. Still.
It’s gotten better of course. But the pain is still there. Right before we came up to Copper I reached out to my friend Kirsten for help. At that point, I’d more or less stayed away from any physical activity since getting off the plane from Spain. But I was feeling slothy and weak and like I’d hit a wall in my recovery. The pain, though manageable, had gone unchanged for a week or so and I was beginning to worry about my chances of enjoying the upcoming ski season. By that point, I had already made the decision to not return to Keystone and teach. I decided that no matter how fast my recovery from here on out I just wouldn’t be able to pass the physical fitness test required to work on the mountain any time soon as it required such (usually simple) things as standing on one foot and jumping up and down. I didn’t spend half the money I thought I would in Spain, so with enough saved up to survive the season without income (especially now that we have such a great deal on housing!) I decided it wasn’t worth it to push myself for the sake of money. Although I loved my job last season, it was really physically exhausting, and in the end I came to the conclusion that it’s just as valiant an effort to work towards my health than to work towards some dollar signs that I don’t necessarily need.
So that’s where Kirsten comes in. My best friend from high school has many talents, one of them being that she’s a bit of a fitness guru (see her blog, Kirsten Captures, here) and is currently working towards her personal training certification. I asked for some tips on some low-impact exercises I could do to speed up my recovery and strengthen myself for ski season. Because she is awesome, not only did she respond with tips, she put together an entire rehabilitation and strengthening program just for me! I’ve been at it for about a week and a half now and let me tell you, this girl is a goddess. I felt almost immediate results as far as my pain. I can now walk normally with barely any pain in my feet and ankles at all. The strength training portion of the program is totally kicking my butt, but even though I know those results will take a little bit longer to really show, I’m feeling awesome about it.
So armed with the new-found confidence of being almost totally pain-free for the first time since September, I hit the slopes the other day.
Well, suffice it to say that’s going to take some time too. It didn’t go that great. Though I can now roll my ankles while sitting or even standing up (a far-fetched dream not so long ago), doing it with the weight of the boots and skis and the resistance of the snow turned out to be impossible without inducing total agony. This means that I can’t carve, which in turn means I have no control in lack-luster conditions, specifically ice, which there is a lot of right now as we’ve gotten very little snow this season. My feet and ankles are also not quite strong enough to push through powder, or stop quickly, which means I’m uncomfortable gaining much speed because I know I’ll be unable to stop efficiently without feeling as if the tendons in my ankle are going to tear in two. And last but not least I’m unable do even the tiniest of jumps because the landings are just excruciating. But because of the little snow there are lots of little bumps everywhere which makes catching some air almost impossible unless you’re going at a snail’s pace, which on a slope requires quite a bit of straining, which, as I bet you can guess, is also incredibly painful for me. Basically, the only place I feel okay (okay as in discomfort, but not total pain), is on hard-packed green groomers.
It probably goes without saying how frustrating this is. I’m a certified ski instructor for God’s sake. My skill was insurable. Literally. I qualified for insurance through Professional Ski Instructors of America. And now I’m finding myself making big wedge turns through a green slope. It’s been very difficult for me. There have been a lot of tears. I’ve entertained the notion once or twice that maybe the Camino wasn’t worth it after all.
But that’s not true. And I know it. It’s just an excuse I like to make for myself when I’m feeling deflated. Everyone always told me the Camino stays with you after you’re done walking. I think most people were talking metaphorically. It seems for the time being I have a physical reminder. But the lesson is still there. Be patient. Don’t give up. Just keep walking. One step at a time.
It was that lesson that got me to the cathedral in Santiago. And it’s the same mindset that will ultimately heal me. And as sorry for myself as I like to feel sometimes, really, I am so lucky. After all, this is the worst snow season so far on record in this area for 15 years. What better time for me to be handicapped?