Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Feels Like Home To Me

I’ve always loved the Olympic Winter Games. Having grown up in Michigan snow, being outdoors in the Winter meant, and still means, fun. Although I’m not a skier, and there’s a mangled tree up at Boyne Highlands that provides testament to that fact, I do love to watch people ski. I have total admiration for someone who’s willing to risk life and limb and hurl themselves at warp speed down a snowy slope on nothing but a couple of thin boards, using only their own muscle and a couple of oversized toothpicks for control. While I could find the physical wherewithal to ski, the mental courage… hmmm... not so much. I need far more control over my situation than skiing affords. However, I grew up iceskating. Every year my big brothers would build an ice rink in the backyard and more often than not, Kathleen Black’s children could be found zipping and twirling around the ice. I wanted to be Peggy Flemming when I grew up - obviously as unmaterialized a dream as my wish to be the nun who gets found and resuced from a nunnery by a handsome sea captain. The possibilities of becoming an Olympic figure skater were closer by far!

I digress.

I love the Olympic Winter Games. It’s the one time, every four years, that I can be found jitterbugging in anticipation of sports being on tv. I call the competitors by name as if we’ve all recently had lunch together. There’s a familiarity there that was born, perhaps, from my own love of winter. I see comrades flying down those slopes, and gliding across the ice, all proving that Winter is just a different kind of playground. They might as well be family.

This year the Olympic Winter Games have been even more special to me. It’s sort of an I've-Come-Full-Circle feeling. I think part of that feeling stems from having so many athletes hail from the Evergreen State. They’re neighbors, the children of people I could be friends with, y’know? I’ve driven through their towns. Maybe I was at Starbucks the same day they were, or maybe we bumped into each other at Pike's Market. I feel close to them on some level. That being said, the bigger part of the particular and peculiar affinity I feel for the games this year comes from them practically being held in my backyard.

As a Washingtonian (hey, I’ve been here over a decade, I think I’ve earned the right to call myself that now), I’ve been to Vancouver (only a 2 ½ hour drive) at least a dozen times in as many years. I’ve walked the streets they show on TV. I’ve wandered through some of the shops that are seen in the background on some shots. I know that city; I’ve spent money there; I’ve eaten there; I‘ve talked with the locals; my favorite work of art that hangs in our living room was bought in Vancouver. While I’ve never skied Whistler or Blackcomb (see above-mentioned lack of skiing prowess), I know many people who have. It’s a weekend getaway for folks here. It’s not unusual to hear or say, “How was Whistler?” But, beyond that, I know these mountains, these knock-your-socks-off gorgeous Cascades. They’re home to me… just looking at them is home to me. When I was still living on the East coast, I would see pictures of this area and say, “That’s where I need to be. That’s where my life is waiting.” Little did I know how true that was. I thought it was just a… a thing… a thing I longed for.

So, these games are special. It's likely as close as I'll ever get to "being there." Even though I'm watching all of the events from the comfort of home, sitting on a cushy sofa, wrapped in my fleecy bathrobe, a cup o' strong bean in my hand, I feel like I'm there. It's not some far away place that makes me think, "Oh, now there's a pretty place to travel to." No, I could wake up, wash my face, and be there in time for breakfast on about a half a tank of gas. I won't be doing that - the border crossing alone is annoying enough and added to that, mingling with the crowds would likely strip me of the last vestiges of my sanity. But, knowing I could works well enough for me. Knowing that the world is focused on "my" mountains is enough. This is my home... my backyard... the kids are playing in my snow. Some dreams do come true.

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