And now we vote.
Over the past few months, I’ve had the honor to campaign for Teton County Commissioner. Doing so has been a remarkable experience, at once intimidating and enriching, an opportunity to look beneath the hood of our community and consider how I might help it run.
Tonight or tomorrow, God willing, the election will be over. There will be winners and losers, tears and joy, another paragraph written in the history of this valley.
I’d like to salute the candidates who had the courage, and the hutzpah, to throw their hats in the ring. Running for office is at once an egotistical act—why should anyone trust us to lead?—and a selfless and lonely one: it’s a full-time job, done without pay because we care and because we believe, irrespective of merit, that we can make a difference.
To the more than 150 people who contributed financially to my campaign: thank you. I’m deeply honored by your faith and support. Your words of encouragement and caution, your willingness to share your insights, guidance, hopes and concerns, and your deep conviction that this remains a place worth fighting for gave me the courage to speak my truth in its defense.
With little in the way of resources, particularly at the start of the campaign, I relied on Buckrail to share those truths. Thank you for reading. I hope some of what I’ve had to say resonated, or perhaps allowed you to define for yourself what you believe to be true in opposition. If anything I’ve written has caused offense, my apologies: none was intended. If any of my words have provided pause or consideration, we have the mountains to thank for that. They are, and will forever be, my inspiration.
Our community is a function of its residents, and their willingness to take part in the public process. To those who voted in this election cycle, thank you: you have participated in the ongoing experiment of American democracy, an experiment we have learned over the past four years not to take for granted. Kudos for stepping into the challenge of deciding who should lead us next.
To the people who live here: may you forever be brilliant, and wild, and open to the savage ability of our home to shock you into realizing what matters. We’ll need those insights for the months and years that lie ahead. Stay vulnerable, and open to understandings that may defy the laws of reason. It is the heart we need to lead us now, not the mind.
And most of all, to this place, my love, my joy, my pain, my hope, my sorrow, my muse: thank you for bringing me here, and thank you for allowing me to stay, and thank you for letting me raise a family in your graces. Thank you for that runout high above the last good piece of pro when the thudding of my fear crowded out everything except what it means to be alive. Thank you for your summit perches and the sight of clouds forming in an empty sky. Thank you for the subzero sliver of a Turkish moon tracing the sky with only a planet for company and us with hours of avy slope to go before the tent.
Thank you for the pelicans rising to disappear in diminishing circles above the Grand, for the Snake and the miracle of water running backward in eddies, for the bull moose, majestic and regal in its velvet cloaks, rising from the still-warm ground, its rack as big as my body.
Why do the ravens fly against the cold northern walls of Valhalla Canyon where there can be no food? Why do I remember the dry branch breaking in the alpine darkness 12 years later, a primordial fear, when so much else is lost to the mists of time?
Thank you for giving me these questions, and for allowing me to search for answers while the testosterone of youth and the unwavering desire to be amongst your folds gave way now to a slower consideration of the memories found in each feature of your serrated skyline.
Most of all, thank you for permitting our hubris to survive, sometimes, and taking it, others, and granting us the company of those who, like us, were so deeply and irrevocably moved by this place that all we could do was come together in awe and reverence and raucous prayer before whatever gods have made it, venturing forth again and again in celebration and the hopes that we might someday find the source of our inspiration and gradually like the play of seasons against the valley floor realizing that it is all a miracle by design and we’re just lucky enough to bear witness—
And to those who feel, as I do, that this place has burned itself upon your being, and you overflow in your desire to contain it and will do everything that you can to protect it, because it has given you what you care about most in this fucked-up, upside-down, otherwise senseless world: Thank you. Don’t ever give up. It’s going to take all of us to do it.
With the campaigning over, I’d like to offer a final tribute to one of the things that makes this place special. May your turns this winter be fluid, the powder bountiful, your lines untracked.
Thanks, again, for your consideration.
A Winter’s Day
In the mountains, some days are better than others. On the good days, we put on our skins and remember what we’re looking for before the last of the car’s warmth is gone from our jackets. It is a ritual cleansing: clumsiness replaced by the grace of a turn, confusion giving way to an elegance not found in town.
Here on a winter’s day, there is nothing but powder, the path of our tracks, a stillness in time. Pine boughs, brittle with cold, crack and settle as the day evolves, keeping time with the wind’s passage and the muted burble of a brook hidden away until spring. Light comes into play: deep, first, with the sun’s early rays, then thinning as the day grows broader. It will gather into watercolors, pink and orange, before the end—but no thought of that now. We are here to ski.
At the top we eat, laugh, have a drink of water. Then one by one we begin to turn, just the fall-line and gravity and us in the middle, our weightlessness complemented by breathing and the pounding of larger hearts. Ah, here it is, that which we’ve come for: a rhythmic balance, a moment of poise. Far from the clutter of workaday lives, we discover our spirits in mouthfuls of snow. Laughter bubbles up somewhere beyond senses. Was that mine?
Doubled over at the bottom, our breaths alternate with giggles as we wait for our friends. Then they arc toward us in soundless curving swoops, spooning our lines with their own. These are our signatures. They will last one day, maybe two. For now, that’s as much as we need.
On days like these, we understand that we won’t find answers until we leave the wrong places. In the ski cabin later that night our conversations are quieter. There is no need for noise. Food, drink, the sound of wood snapping in the pot-bellied stove; outside the temperature dips below zero. Dreams come, deep and lucid, earned on another winter’s day.