I've noticed over the past couple of months that "suffering" has joined the ranks of the hashtag lexicon, courtesy of the Patagonia crowd (or Arcteryx, or NorthFace, or whatever special blend of recycled coke bottles best expresses your lifestyle). As in: "#suffer better; #suffer uphill; #sufferfest." This is neither good nor bad, but interesting, and because words are by training and inclination my subject, I have some thoughts. Language evolves, its speakers change, and words stretch and move over time--a process more metamorphic than architectural. Like layers of mud and sand, squeezed together until they form something new.
Maybe you agree that words can be like rocks. So far so good. But a word is also a bit like a kitchen you walk into that smells of whatever was cooking before you arrived. You start your own meal, but still will taste a little of whatever was simmering in those pans. In this instance, #suffering, that's a general association with martyrdom and psychic pain--two things I don't typically group with skiing, or climbing, or really anything most of us would choose to do in these, our great outdoors.
Of course, you protest, I'm taking all of this far too seriously. I'd be the first to agree I am--words, after all, should be as much objects of play as mountains and rivers, skis and rods. But when my time in the mountains is constricted, my thoughts tend to run more melancholy than they would if buffered by a healthy dose of sweat and lactic acid. Point is that I don't think any of us are really suffering out there, though we may be uncomfortable, sometimes extremely so, and sometimes verily unto death. Do our recreations really have anything to do with the stations of the cross? I dunno. Maybe there are bigger fish to fry. Throw a little native advertising into the mix, and the question becomes even trickier. Are you running the hashtag, or is the hashtag running you?
We all of us suffer, sometimes. Some suffer more, some less, to each as the world sees fit to dish it out. But skiing isn't suffering, even though your toes got really damn cold. Language shifts as we shift, nothing wrong with that. But like the rocks you pull on, or the snow you dig through, there's more to the words than might first meet the eye. As I was scribbling away at this bit of nonsense, I learned that a classmate had passed away. I did not know him well. He suffered from medical issues, and pain, and had been struggling. I have no right to speak of him, really. But I wish I had taken the chance to know him better, to have extended a bit more kindness when it might have mattered. To have suffered better, as we all should do.
Woke up Saturday morning to an icy inch in town. Up high we found close to a foot of cold new snow. Almost forgot what winter feels like, but a brilliant sun and brisk north wind brought it surging back. Climb, ski, climb, ski. Forever and ever, amen.
The weather couldn't really make up its mind Saturday, but it did seem to feel no sun should shine in the Rattlesnake. Then snow today. Could it be the beginning of a new storm cycle? The mountains could use a nice, soft blanket.