As we all know, there’s nothing that beats the post-holiday doldrums like a tale of woe from someone else’s Christmas tree hunt, so I am sharing this story now instead of hoarding it until next year.
Paul Gitchos and Kelleigh McMillan’s tree-collecting day was on track to be a model of efficiency right up until the last minute. Both kids were away, so Paul and Kelleigh decided to grab a Christmas tree quickly as part of a skiing day trip. “To save time,” Kelleigh emphasizes.
Paul and Kelleigh loaded up the dogs, went for a ski near Washington Pass, drove to a forest road, and cut down a marvelous tree. Back at the car, they loaded the dogs up and began to hoist the tree onto the top of their car.
As they each stood with an end of the trunk in their hands, arms stretched overhead, they heard a telltale “beep-beep”: the ominous and unmistakable sound of their car doors locking. Peering in through the window they saw their new puppy standing on the driver’s seat, one little paw resting squarely on the key fob that Paul and Kelleigh had chucked there only moments earlier.
Kelleigh danced around in front of the window for a while with dog treats, trying to lure the puppy into stepping on the key fob again, but to no avail; the chance alignment of paw with lock button was not, apparently, replicable.
Paul and Kelleigh eventually admitted defeat and hitchhiked all the way back to Twisp, where their other car was parked. This car, too, was locked, and it only took moments for Paul and Kelleigh to realize where the key was — in Kelleigh’s purse, with the dogs, in the other locked car.
Luckily their thumbs were all warmed up from the earlier hitchhike, so Paul and Kelleigh hit the road again, this time bumming a lift up to their home on Twisp River Road, where they retrieved spare keys for both cars. A final hitchhike got them back to Twisp and their car parked there, and then all that remained was to drive back out past Mazama to fetch the tree, two peacefully sleeping dogs, and a very steamed up vehicle. The day was saved, despite the fact that time was not.
In the spirit of embracing time and the relentless march of it, I thought I’d share some sage advice from a skier I ran into — almost literally — on an icy ski trail just after the New Year’s rain. The skier and I approached a small hill from opposite directions, and, being courteous people well-versed in Nordic etiquette, we both moved to the right sides of the trail, him V1-ing up the hill, me paralleling down it. I planned to slip by him expertly, riding the very margins of the trail like Laird Hamilton surfing the curl of Waimea Bay. Instead, what I lacked in finesse I made up for in sheer dramatic effect, veering off the trail with a warbling kind of “whoa!” sound, crossing the tips of my skis, and nearly plunging headlong into a tree well.
With that showy entrance into the other skier’s personal space, I knew I had no option but to greet him, so I called out incongruously, and only a week late, “Merry Christmas!” The skier stopped, graciously pretended not to notice my solo Nordic Twister interpretive dance, glanced down at the hard-packed trail, and said sagely, “My motto for the day is ‘stay vertical.’”
“Yes!” I thought, realizing it was not only a mandate for a day on a slick ski trail, but also a mantra for the year ahead. There’s a time and a place for horizontal, of course — oh yes. But in the greater scheme of things, perpendicular is the place to be. Stay vertical, y’all.