Contest RecapMidlife Collage sponsors a weekly contest of midlife short stories. U.S. citizens and legal residents age 40 and older may enter. The Editor selects five stories for publication on our website each week. Readers leave comments and Facebook thumbs-up likes urging the panel of Judges to choose a contest winner. Readers also send the Judges their opinions of the best story on our Closing Arguments page. The contest period is Monday through Sunday noon PT. The first-place story enters the Winner’s Circle and receives a cash prize of $50. Winners of a $50 cash prize are eliglble for a $100 contest, which we run quarterly. See the Submissions Page for the Contest Rules for details. ANYONE, worldwide, age 18 or older can comment on the stories in a contest.
The snow-covered slope begins at the edge of a frozen creek and gradually rises to eventually meet the dark curtain of sky overhead. Forests of thick pines produce a gloomy enclosure for the brightly lit ski slope that occupies center stage. Dark brown poles, with spotlights mounted atop, are implanted in two rows up the hill. They appear as candles on a giant, weird-shaped birthday cake. The lights illuminate only the area between the forest borders. To each side, snuggled between the spotlights and trees, are tall stanchions that support an ever-moving cable. The ski lift to the left carries yellow chairs to the summit. The lift on the right side sports green chairs and also has a name, “The Grand Slam”—a strange name as it only “slams” a body halfway up the slope. Standing at the foot of this mountain, I realize my reaction is not as it should be.
Mundane. Mundane. The word towers in front of my mind’s eye in capital letters. I attempt to find something of exciting significance in the scene. However, my mind refuses to react.
The most stimulating factors on the scene are my son and daughter. One on each side of me, they simultaneously compete for an answer to the same plea, “Can we please, please get some skis?”
Tiredly, I turn to my husband and jog his memory with, “Last week it was a rabbit, remember?”
Gazing up this long, long slope, the magnificence I am expecting to feel just isn’t there. It seems to be beyond my comprehension why anyone would want to be scooped up by a precariously dangling chair and lifted to the top of a mountain. Being deposited safely at the top, why would anyone want to immediately slide back down the very same mountain by means of two boards strapped to their feet? (The participant considers this process satisfying only if it is repeated numerous times.) The entire sequence of events strikes me as a waste of time, energy, and money.
Without warning, a memory forms in my mind. Years ago, at the ripe old age of eighteen, I had stood in the same spot that is now occupied by my son. My thought at that time was, “Somehow, I must save enough money to rent a pair of skis.” Bursting with anticipation, I rushed home to calculate my finances. My dream eventually became reality when I returned to ski here a few months later.
Centering my meditation back to the present, I discover my mind is beginning to whirl with a torrent of emotions. Have I forgotten how to have fun? Dare I ask? Have I lost the ability to play? Must activities always have a reasonable explanation now?
A little boy, who is about three years old, teeters repeatedly down the slope. Certainly he did not ask, “Why?” when informed he was going skiing. He knew it would be fun. That was enough.
Why does the natural beauty surrounding this place not impress me? Something appears out of place. But what is it? People are here enjoying nature as they should, right? Ah! Now another nagging thought comes to mind: They’re not enjoying nature in its true form. It’s sixty degrees today; that snow is man-made!
How cynical! Am I so mesmerized by man’s accomplishments that I can no longer see past them? Do I give complete credit to man for creating this wonderland on a warm day? Yes, but where did man get the pattern, or the idea, for snow? He got it from nature. Everything circles back to nature.
What happens when we learn to imitate nature? Is it mystifying? Is it magnificent? Yes, it is for a time. Eventually, it becomes ordinary, boring, and mundane.
Is it really this manufactured fun that is causing me to feel as I do? Or am I the one who has acquired a drab outlook on things? Am I the one—not this place—that has become mundane? The man-made snow may have triggered these reflections, but it is far from new. When I skied here the snow was partially manufactured. I didn’t view the snow, or the sport of skiing, as a waste of money and energy then.
So, what is it? I remember making a vow to myself when I was nineteen. Under no circumstances would I become as cynical and mundane as the adults (anyone over the age of thirty at that time). Furthermore, I would never stop doing things that were just plain fun.
Now, hearing the “shish” of the skis on the snow, and the laughter of the children echoing in the trees, a feeling of loss emerges. Not loss of youth, for I am not yet old. What then? Slowly and sadly, a staggering awareness permeates my troubled mind.
I am cynical. I am mundane. My personal vow lies broken and shattered all around me.
When did I make the first mistake, the first fracture? Evidently, striving to accomplish more today than yesterday, earning more this year than last year, and climbing the next rung in the advancement ladder had taken its toll. It’s sad to discover your ideals trampled beneath your own feet.
Can I once again learn to have fun without questioning its reasonableness? More importantly, is it possible to repair the broken vow that lies at my feet?