Dirt and grime covered my hands as I crouched next to my car on the side of the road en route back to LA from Big Bear last Saturday. My smile couldn’t have been bigger as I gingerly unhooked the snow cables from my tires. There was something satisfying about working with my hands to take care of myself. From deciding the moment to put them on to when I felt right about taking them off, the decision and action were mine to make and take.

The journey for this very short yet deliciously impromptu trip North was a long time coming. After months of dreaming about boarding in Big Bear, but feeling obligated by career and work to stay in the 30-mile radius it seemed out of reach. The timing just felt off each time. As rumors of rain ramped up each passing day last week, my fantasy evolved, my desire multiplied. With my work schedule influx, I went to bed Saturday at 3 am with the openness of letting the day dictate my decision. I awoke with a slight ache in my back that afternoon but couldn’t shake that feeling that it was really now or never. I happily have performances scheduled in March and will be on-call all month for additional ones. But when I commit to something, I do it fully. I would never feel right leaving town during that time unless it was another booking and the performances fully covered.  

My ability to leave town and not get called into work was largely weather dependent so I had left my hotel booking to the last minute; very un-Irene. With torrential downpour being imminent, I called a few of the hotels. There was only one place that wasn’t fully booked, a last minute cancellation right in my budget. Serendipitous, no? That sealed the deal. I hurriedly packed, jumped in my car, raced over to my parents’ house to pick up my boarding clothes (LOVE that I have the option after living on the east coast for years!), and started my trek. The skies stayed surprisingly clear and as the traffic slowed on the highway leading up to the base of the mountain, I saw the neon ‘Target’ sign and had the instinct to stop. I had seen some posting about chains being suggested but all the notifications did not mentioned it being necessary. I confronted my resistance to this precaution (heck, I’ve driven up to Big Bear on dark, late night roads in a subcompact of all things (an ex’s poor choice!) once before with the tires slipping to & fro). I went into Walmart, Target, and Big 5’s Sporting Goods and no one carried them. Seriously?! I wanted to be up the mountain before the sun had completely set but made a call to another auto store based on the nagging feeling that I was better safe than sorry. After a bunch of back & forths and an unhelpful attendant, I managed to get the snow cables and back on my way. And sorry I would’ve been. At a certain point, the storm started and instead of the snow I’m accustomed to driving in from my years living in the Northeast and through its rural countryside (Upstate New York is HUGE and largely rural), the very atmosphere seemed to morph. This opaque layer, which I don’t even want to call fog, because it didn’t move, oozed over my car. I could barely see the yellow road divider, which I followed like my life depended on it. And as I climbed higher, the snow started blurring those lines too. I forced myself to do some very conscious breathing, slowed as much as possible, turned up the music (The Black Key’s ‘Strange Desire’ had just come on), and threaded gradually uphill. I laughed on that portion of the drive – the parallel to my life and career not lost on me. Doesn’t it get that way?

You commit wholeheartedly, take the necessary steps, and sometimes everything gets clouded over. You can’t see how far you’ve come nor the future, but only focus on the immediate steps, what’s in front of you…until you can. Trust your gut that you’re going the right direction, stick to your guns, and ride it out. And if you can sway and sing to great music on the ascent, you just made it that much better. Eventually the visibility improved and I got to a snow chain checkpoint! (*Now* possession of snow chains were mandatory and enforced…except there is nowhere to purchase them if you didn’t bring them! I like how they tell you that afterwards! Glad I trusted my instincts!) Some crazy drivers chose to not put on chains & impatiently tailgated me. Each time, I pulled over to let them pass. I wanted to do what was comfortable for me and go at the pace I wanted. I had nothing to prove to them. I saw them later pulled to the side of the road trying to put on their chains. Never was I so happy to arrive at a destination and park my damn car!

The next morning I awoke to a beautiful winter wonderland! Snow everywhere! 

I chuckled at the line of cars off the main road leading to the most popular mountain resort wondering if I’d make my lesson that day. I discovered after looping the parking lot for 10 minutes that taking the lesson at 10:45 am just wasn’t in the cards for me. Instead of being frustrated, I took that as an opportunity to check out Grizzly Manor, a local breakfast spot I was secretly hoping to try. The wait was over an hour but one of the sweet servers squeezed me in when she found out it was just me. YES, the joys of traveling alone! I enjoyed a sumptuous feast of eggs, bacon, and pancakes while pouring over a scene for class on Monday. 

That, my friend, is ONE pancake.
Then moseyed on over to the resort for round two. I lucked out and on my second loop I got a spot and headed in for my refresher course in boarding. The conditions couldn’t have been more perfect. It snowed at least a foot while I boarded. Apparently, I retained A LOT more than I thought. On the intellectual level, I had completely forgotten the mechanics of boarding unlike surfing which I’d be able to explain to you step-by-step. As I descended down the mountain, I felt the rhythm return; muscle memory is a blessed thing. I felt my body respond to the terrain as I glided from J, C, & S curves to 360s without a thought in my mind. Just feeling the expansiveness of floating through nature and being a part of it. 

A photo posted by αиєѕѕα∂ιℓℓα (@anessadea) on

On the lift to my second to last run, I looked around at the immense snow fall and felt a twinge of dread. I had to get down the mountain at some point and while my timing worked out to get me down before I lost daylight the intensity of the snowfall gave me great pause. I checked in with that fear. I could let it ruin my last runs or enjoy them and deal with the consequence, if any, thereafter. As Fate would have it, after my last run and returning my rentals, the snowfall completely stopped and the skies cleared. As if the Maker himself just snapped his fingers: enough. The safest road down I had been banking on taking since I arrived in Big Bear had closed because a tanker had tipped over.  Yes, multiple levels of irony there. I shrugged it off and decided on the highway that descended the mountain quick enough but not the fastest — safer than the road I took coming up. Hahaha, I learn my lessons quickly. And damn, the drive was gorgeous.

I’ve seen snow so many times before. I’ve been to Big Bear many times before. I’ve done this exact drive back before. Yet I felt a tremendous sense of awe and a surge of immense pride that this landscape belonged to us. And that we belonged to it. We often forget that we have the power to see things anew if we choose to…especially, taxing when we’ve been at the same goal for awhile. Everything starts feeling the same, looking the same…and we lose sight of the steps forward, which are significant no matter how incremental. With only one pit and snack stop at McDs, a couple bouts of traffic, I arrived at my parents’ home for a quick dinner before continuing back to my apartment. The rain, which I dreaded more than the snow, did not fall until I was several blocks from my apartment. I watched the downpour from my window in quiet contentment amazed at what could unfold if you let it; just allow.

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