Monday, September 7, 2009

Ode to Joy

Sunday night I was hanging out with my friends Curtis and Trent. I've been to a number of concerts with these guys, including U2 in 2005, one of my all-time favorites. These guys have been to a lot more concerts than I have and are going to see U2 again in Chicago this weekend. U2 put on a great show and are always memorable, but one of my best concert memories is seeing the Boise Philharmonic perform Beethoven's 9th a couple years ago.

Beethoven's 9th is the best piece of music ever written in the history of ever. That is an incontrovertible fact, so there's no point in arguing with me. The fact that Beethoven wrote it when he was completely deaf is nothing short of astounding and among the greatest human achievements in any field.

The full symphony, but in particular the fourth movement, is often called "Ode to Joy" because it includes a choral rendition of Friedrich Schiller's poem by the same name. The poem is a celebration of the ideal of unity and brotherhood of all mankind. But since I don't speak a word of German and only just now read the English translation, I've always just thought of it as a celebration for celebration's sake and the source of a great deal of happiness and listening pleasure.

Sometimes we have days that are like this: a celebration for celebration's sake. Something to be enjoyed and cherished and looked back on fondly when days aren't so good. That was today.

It began normally enough, for a non-workday at least, with taking the kids to Daylight Donuts for breakfast. Donuts for breakfast on Saturdays and holidays aren't unusual if I'm not riding or skiing in the morning. But we'd never been to Daylight before. After Dug mentioned their raspberry fritters as one of his guilty pleasures, we had to give them a try. In case you're wondering, they're worth driving to Pleasant Grove for.

We of course walked out with way more donuts than we needed, because they all looked good, and when we got to nine, the nice girl at the counter told us if we bought one more, we'd get two more free. What would you do?

Donuts in hand, we headed to the park in Alpine to eat and play on the playground. As a parent, few moments are more satisfying than watching your kids play together. Without fighting. The kids loved it and would have stayed longer, but we promised something special later in the day if they didn't complain about going home.

We had to leave because I had plans to meet Alex so he could introduce me to the Super-PBX loop. It was everything a mountain bike trail should be. Lots of good, sustained climbs, with a couple of gutbusters. A few technical sections--including some challenging switchbacks--to keep you sharp, and of course, terrific scenery with aspen and PLT forests and mountains in every direction. Can't wait to do it again and get to the point where I can navigate it on my own.

Just after the turnaround point, we ran into Alex's hunky neighbor, Chris, who was about 15 minutes behind us riding the same loop. We doubled back and rode to the turnaround with him and then continued together the rest of the way out.

After cleaning the "Finesse" trail, which was actually hard, I managed to crash on an easy, straight section when my wheel hit some soft stuff and washed out. Chris had crashed earlier, but I was far enough behind that I didn't see it. (Did I mention that Chris and Alex are both really fast?) The skinned knee in no way put a damper on the ride, the trail was that good, as was the company.

Alex and I hit Coldstone for some post-ride recovery ice cream, then it was time to hurry home to take the kids up the canyon for a picnic. We had ridden in the afternoon because that's when my two-year-old naps. The day was so perfect that I got home right after she woke up and before Rachel called to see when I would be back. Talk about timing!

The "something special" we promised the kids was going to Snowbird to ride the tram. My son has been wanting to ride the tram since ski season. He's not quite good enough to ski from the top, but I told him we'd ride to the top in the summer so he could see what it's like.

As parents we want the best for our kids. What I mean by this is that we want them to get all the things we think are best about ourselves, without having to have the parts that we don't like. My son is only five, but when I watch him, that's exactly what I see. He's like a good parts version of me. The unalloyed happiness he derives from riding his bike or skiing or being outside is like watching myself all over again. But unlike his dad, he's not a complete and total basket case around exposure. He's way better-looking than I am, too.

As much of a ninny as I am with exposure, I'm nothing compared to my mother. Indeed, I think a lot of my fear is a result of my mom freaking out in the most exaggerated and embarrassing way possible whenever we would, for instance, walk all the way up to the guard rail at the Grand Canyon. Or look out the window of a two story building. Or stand on a chair.

So in order to avoid instilling in my kids an irrational fear of heights, I have to consciously constrain myself and pretend to be calm when they're disembarking the aerial tram or walking around on top of an 11,000 foot peak that drops off at 35 degrees or more on every side. For the 20 minutes or so that we hung out on top of Hidden Peak, I wanted to pull my kids back from the edge of everything, hold their hands at all times, and not let them walk very far. Inside I was panicking. Outside, I was walking with them to the overlooks, telling them it was OK to stand or sit on the edge, and pointing out the surrounding peaks, including various lines I had skied (it was super cool to look around and know I'd been to the summit of almost every peak we could see and had skied from most of them).

My son stood at the window of the tram all the way down, looking at the terrain below, imagining things covered with snow, his little body effortlessly gliding down on skis. It was a magical moment.

After the tram ride, we went to the White Pine trailhead, found a nice spot by the stream, and sat down for a picnic. In true Rachel fashion, the food was simple but well-executed. Everything was delicious, and I realized how hungry I was after riding for over three hours and having eaten little more than a couple donuts and a bowl of ice cream all day.

We drove home, the sun setting over the city, Beethoven's 9th on the stereo, and three sleepy, happy kids starting to drift towards sleep in the back seat. Ode to joy, indeed.


  1. Good days with the kids are sweet indeed.

  2. I had "just a taste" of that raspberry fritter at 11PM last night. the whole thing was gone in 30 seconds.

  3. No argument here about the 9th symphony. I'm with you. I loved it before I knew he was deaf composing.

    As for the anxiety-ridden parenting, I am glad I am in good company. I force myself to smile while inside I am screaming, "STEP AWAY!!" I want my kids to embrace the world and finally realized one day I would rather have them break an arm while climbing the tree than not climb the tree.

  4. Is it freaky friday or what? You posted pictures of your kids on your blog and I am getting ready to post pictures of The Tour of Utah on mine.

    Love ya!