Saturn Return – Material, Relationships, Health and Spirit

I met with a new friend Shannon here in Telluride yesterday. Shannon practices Vedic Astrology and she gave me a reading of my stars. It was very interesting and so different from the Western Astrology that I have dabbled in for several years. As I have said, my favorite part about Astrology is the Astronomy. I love looking up in the sky and seeing the planets (you can see Jupiter and Venus in the twilight sky in the picture above).

I wanted the reading because I have been aware of my second Saturn return coming up, and much to my surprise, according to Vedic Astrology, my Saturn return phase lasted several years, and the last day of this was January 18th, 2023. This happens to be exactly the day that I received the last of my bad news from the cerebral infarction that stroked me on January 3rd. It was January 18th that I went to the Ophthalmologist who grimly offered the opinion that I was done with driving and certainly done with snow skiing.

Well yesterday I drove myself to the Car Henge Parking Lot here in Telluride and spent the day skiing in the trees with the super expert Bill Glasscock. It turns out that the trees are easier to ski in that the open slopes in some ways. There are no people zipping into my path from the left, just trees, and the trees do not move. Also, skiing in the trees requires me to pick my way through deep moguls and to find the best path through the forest. I can study the terrain and link together five or six turns, and then regroup.

I did have a bone crunching wipe out yesterday. I caught my downhill edge on the top of a big mogul and fell downhill and impacted the next mogul on the shoulder. I heard a loud series of crunchy sounding cracks as the entire range of my thoracic and cervical spine received a big chiropractic adjustment. I lay down in the snow for a few seconds waiting for pain, but none came, and I got up laughing. What fun to spend the day skiing through the trees.

I came out of a shoot called Log Pile with my orange vision impaired vest on my chest. Knowing that his was a safe end I had linked together a couple more turns than normal. There was a group of about six people who were pondering their next move from this point. Bill knew one of them and was waiting with them when I came out. He had been boasting about his Vision Impaired student, and everyone was kind of flabbergasted as I came out of the trees.

I have learned so much about neural diversity and disability from this experience. Vision Impaired is absolutely not the same thing as blindness. My vision impairment simply means that I cannot process visual information pertaining to the upper left. But I see everything else just fine. I have learned to tilt my head to the right as I pivot my neck to the left to look over my left shoulder. By tilting my head, I make the horizon of my field of vision parallel and slightly above the ski terrain, and thus, I can see just fine. I just have to adapt to the new situation.

I have learned that every challenge is unique, and that there is joy in overcoming them. I have also learned to stop looking at people in wheel chairs with a sort of assumption that their life is not joyful. Who am I to assume what their life is like?

And so here I am in the autumn of my life. Autumn, not winter. And actually, this is only the very beginning of the Autumn of my life. It’s basically September 22nd in my Life. And yes, while there is a melancholy to the fall, it is also a beautiful time. The final harvests are coming in, the leaves are turning color and the weather is cool but not cold. And so as I enter in this new season with my third lap of Saturn around the Sun just beginning, I want to focus on four foundational areas of a Glorious life.

Material, Relationships, Health and Spirit. The foundations of a life worth living are these four, and it’s amazing how interrelated they are, and how much balance is required. How often do we see relationships, health and spirit suffer if we focus too much on the material? How many spiritual enthusiasts do you know that have a disdain for wealth and material success, or who fail in their relationship while they seek solice in solitude and meditation?

One of the things I love about Telluride is that it brings all of these together. When we are here we cook and clean and do our laundry and walk the dogs and take care of our material. We have great times together and many friends, and the lifestyle and food choices here are great for the health. And for Spirit?

Spirit lives in every rock in every canyon in this magical place. Spirit is the balance of the snow upon the branches.


Schmarya Space Shalom

Telluride Skiing With Vision Impairment – Navigating a complex environment with limited vision

I started skiing with an instructor, Bill Glasscock, who has specialized in adaptive skiing, so I can learn to ski safely with my vision limitation. Bill started the adaptive ski program in Telluride, and has actually coached completely blind skiers to make it safely down slopes with just audio direction. He has 36 years of experience teaching skiing in the winters, and kayaking in the summers. What a life he has led. If you ever want an instructor in Telluride, ask for Bill, and make your reservation two months before you arrive.

When I first started I felt very insecure and tentative. Other skiers move very fast, and it’s hard for me to keep track of them while also staying aware of the trees and bumps and other hazards. This is the story of life, right?

It’s funny. When I’m going down a slope at 40 miles an hour, everything, even the trees look like they are moving fast. The snowy slopes provide a even field. I do not really perceive the relative motion between myself and the snow, because it is so evenly distributed. Objects that are stuck into the snow, however, appear to be moving relative to my perspective. Fixed objects, like trees, warning signs, lift poles, rocks, and so on, all appear to be moving at the same relative speed. Other skiers, in contrast, move independantly.

This creates an extremely complex environment for me to navigate. That’s kind of the metaphor for life right? How can we navigate an extremely complex environment with limited vision? If you have been reading along in my blog, you will remember that after my cerebral infarction, I have a persistent blind spot on the upper left of my visual field. So basically, if I fix my gaze at a point on the wall, and hold my left arm straight out from the shoulder, with my fingers pointed to the ceiling, I can see my watch, but not my fingers. If I move my hand to the left, at about 30 degrees, in the far periphery, my hand reappears. So from just left of the midline to thirty degrees left, above the horizon, I just see a gray cloud. No details are visible.

This requires me to make some major adjustments in my skiing. It starts with the imperative that I keep my gaze up, so that the slope I am skiing on remains in the bottom half of my visual field. This allows me to maintain awareness of big hazards. But it also means I cannot look down at my skis. I can no longer focus my attention on the little bumps and snow balls, and icy patches that I am skiing over. I have to keep my head up and maintain situational awareness.

This forces me to stay well balanced over my skis and allow my knees to flex like shock absorbers. I also have to constantly stay on one edge, turning either right or left, edge to edge, so my skis slice through the terrain. I have learned to put a little skid at the bottom of each turn before starting my weight shift to the other ski to bleed off excess speed. I picked this up really fast, with Bill’s guidance, and so my form is actually better now than it has ever been. Another gift of the gift.

I have also learned that I must really study the mountain. Bill knows every inch of the terrain here, and this knowledge has helped so much. I need to learn every place where a cat track enters the slope. I need to have a mental map of very spot where two slopes merge and every place where skiers exit the trees onto a slope. I’ll give an example.

One of my favorite runs in Telluride is called Cimarron. The access to this run is off the little used Lift Seven, a slow old school two seater chair that connects the free parking in the “Car Henge” lot to the ridge above Mountain Village. This is a lift mostly used by locals who park in the free parking. To get to Cimarron from the Gondola, which most tourists use, you would have to hike up a gentle slope for about 100 meters. Most people do not bother, and so they head down just a bit to Milk Run instead.

Cimarron is steep little skied. They groom it about every other day. On Tuesday, I reached my daily maximum speed of 49.4 MPH on Cimarron. The top is wide, steep and empty. But at the bottom, Cimarron merges with the Telluride Trail, which is basically a wide cat track that provides the easy way down from the top. It also merges with Milk Run, and some other chutes, which are also steep and busy. There is a point about halfway down the mountain where a narrow, very expert, trail merges from the left, and there is a jump on the downhill side of a cat track. Expert skiers entering from the left hit this jump and fly into the bottom part of Cimarron.

Above this point is a rope barrier on the left, which I like to ski next to, making tight slalom turns, but when I get to this intersection, I have to cross over to the right to avoid dangerous traffic. Too dangerous it turns out. So now I have learned to ski down on the right and stop above this jump. I can then crane my neck around to the left to make sure nobody is coming and then safely cross the cat track and enter the bottom part of the slope. After this crossing, there is a cliff wall on the right and a steep drop on the left. I can pick a side and ski safely all the way to “Kids Run” which will take me back to Chair 7.

Bill skied this route with me about six times. I learned every little nuance of this terrain, and so now I know where the danger points are. I can ski fast and free in the wide open and steep faces where nobody can enter from my left, and then I can carefully pick my way through the points of intersection.

This is why they call it adaptive. I do have a disability in the sense that I cannot see some pretty important information that most people expect me to perceive. But I can adapt by changing my form and by learning the terrain. The result, as it was with driving, is that I’m actually a much better and safer skier now that I was before.

This of course applies to life itself, as an analogy anyway. It’s about keeping the vision broad and maintaining situational awareness, and navigating the minor details with firmness and balance in my stance. Awareness and broad vision coupled with firmness and balance.

I am really grateful for this experience. I am so grateful that I can push through this limitation and turn it into a challenge. But most of all, I’m grateful that I can still enjoy the spectacular winter environment at 11,000 feet in the San Juan Mountains above Telluride Colorado.

After skiing, go the Petite Maison on Pacific, sit at the bar, and order the locals Steak Frites for $25.00. It’s not on the menu and you have to sit at the bar to get it. So much good in life comes from paying attention to the details.



Telluride –

It has been a few days since I have written anything, and I am starting this without a very clear idea of where this is heading. We came out to Telluride, Colorado to enjoy a month of late winter and early spring here in this beautiful box canyon. The picture you see is from behind a frozen waterfall up at the top of a little box canyon near our house here. It amazes me that we can walk a quarter of a mile from our house and find such a miracle.

This valley holds a very sacred energy, and the spirits of the people who lived here over the last thousand years are very present. This was a summer hunting and camping ground for many centuries. The weather was too harsh to live here year round without electricity and material support trucked in here. The winters up at 9,000 feet of elevation in these mountains are unrelenting. But in the summer it’s a different story. The valley floor is full of elk in the summer, and the black bears roam through the alleys in town overturning trash cans.

I have walked through some of these special places and felt the spirits of people who lived here a long time ago. I felt the joy of returning to favorite summer camps. And there is another history laid on top of that ancient story which is just as palpable. A history of hardened settlers moving west from post civil war America to mine these mountains for gold. The first mining claim was made here in 1875, and it was a tough bunch who managed to survive here year round. There is a monument outside a building in town which notes that it was the first bank robbed by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

We took a tour of the local graveyard last summer, and it tells many stories. There are the graves of two brothers side by side, both veterans of the civil war, one on the union side the other on the confederate side. There are graves from epidemics, graves of women who worked in the red light district, graves of many minors who lost their lives in these harsh conditions.

Mining was the only industry here until the ski resort opened in 1972. And this brought yet another historical overlay to the region. Now the famous Telluride Mushroom festival brings together dead heads, mycologists, cooks, foragers, scientists and artists. Music festivals, the Telluride Film Festival, and all kinds of nature lovers gather now in this magical place.

Telluride presents such a stark contrast between the natural beauty of this box canyon, and the very harsh conditions. I am very grateful to be welcome here now, but I often wonder what it must have been like for the Ute people who came here before their way of life was uprooted and destroyed. Telluride sits at the top of box canyon that can only be accessed from the west. If you head west out of the canyon it’s not very far to arrive in Moab Utah.

Ajax peak stands at the top of the canyon to the west with dramatic water falls flowing into the head waters of the San Miguel river. As you walk along the river heading east, you come across beautiful meadows and ponds with beavers and ducks in them even today. Now there is a beautiful park at the east end of town called Town Park, and when I walk along the river here, I can almost feel the presence of all the generations of people who camped here in the summer. I can imagine their teepees and fires, and the game that they hunted.

I walked up to the top of the canyon to the frozen waterfall with some friends of mine who are members of the Native American Church. We stood in the remarkable landscape and made an offering of tobacco to the spirits that inhabit there. We asked for their blessing for us to be on this land and for their protection. Such spiritual power exists here, and on top of it are all of these overlays of history.

It reminds me that I am here now, but only for a flash of time. Across the street right now I hear the sounds of demolition of one house so that another can be built. But it all depends on our supply chains and support from the outside. One winter with no electricity, and this valley will be empty once again. Our presence here feels so permanent, but the spirits who live in these mountains have seen changes over thousands of years. We are just visitors here, and I am grateful for this moment that allows me to be a small part of this.