COLD SMOKE – finding the flow

By | 23rd January 2018

They’re younger than me, these guys. And fitter.

After two days I’m wondering why I’m here. In this company, with their second homes and expensive cars, I feel the poor relation, unsuccessful in life and love. It’s nonsensical to feel this way but, after two days of fighting my skis, fighting my lack of fitness, fighting the pain in my ancient knees, I’m feeling somehow apart from the others; with them yet not with them.

Day three is better. I finally get on top of the rental equipment, so different from my own. I start to feel that I’m working with the skis rather than against them. Snow is falling steadily but my mask  keeps it out of my eyes and I’m staying with the tight group of experienced skiers as we range far over the extensive network of pistes.

Perhaps I’m not ready to give up this sport after all.

The last day. It’s our third run and my legs are warmed up and feeling responsive. Last night’s heavy fall lies thick, 40 or 50 centimetres of it. We’ve traversed off the piste and stand at the top of a slope of virgin, untracked powder. The gradient varies, with mounds, dips, rocks and tree stumps shaping the snow like bodies shaping a carelessly thrown duvet. A serious slope. For serious skiers.

“Hey, guys. You mind if the old man takes first pop at this one?”

“Sure, fill your boots!”

I don’t know what they’re expecting; perhaps wide, hard-fought turns; a big man muscling his skis through the deep snow.

Not today.

Two deep, centring breaths then I commit myself to the fall line. I know from the first turn that this is going to be good, skis rising to the surface as I unweight, then sinking into a pillow of soft snow as I roll my knees and pressure them. A second turn follows, a third. I flow down the mountain as new rain flows down a long-dry river bed, rushing down the steeps, seeming to pause in the hollows, swirling round rocks and obstructions but always answering gravity’s downwards urge.

Confident and alive with the thrill of it, I let my speed build, powder blowing over my mask with each turn. The turns come fast, one flowing seamlessly into the next, my attack and the fluidity of my motion belying my age.

I leave a trail of cold smoke in my wake as I weave my way down the steep slope.

I am in the zone, in what psychologists call the flow state. I see not just the small patch of snow in front of my skis but the whole slope, all of it at once, knowing my route four, five turns ahead, somehow both supremely relaxed and in a state of deep focus.

Finally I come to rest, breathing hard, but wonderfully calm. I could turn and respond to the surprised whoops of appreciation from my following friends, but I choose to wait a moment, looking into the distance, at one with my skis, at one with the snow, at one with myself.

They’re younger than me, these guys. And fitter.

But, today, they ski on my mountain.

skier cold smoke

unfortunately not me – (image from shutterstock)

Two activities in my life are capable of taking me to the near-mythical  “flow” state*. One, as described above, is skiing . The other, perhaps surprisingly, is being caned. There too, I can reach that sense of being “in the zone,” fully in command of my faculties, intensely focussed. This is, I think, the source of my deeply emotional response to prolonged corporal punishment and, in part, the reason why I seek it out.

Perhaps this post, with its description of what I get from skiing, will also help explain why I have chosen to accept an invitation to visit the mountains again rather than attend Eroticon. None the less, this was a difficult decision as I really had been looking forward to extending my  network of friends in the blogging world.

*FLOW (Wikipedia) In positive psychology, flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.

skiing mask


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7 thoughts on “COLD SMOKE – finding the flow

  1. Exposing40

    I missed this when it was first written! @19syllables told me last night to read it. I’m glad she did! Wonderful writing, as ever. Xx

  2. Marie Rebelle

    I have never ever skied, but reading your description and the freedom and flow it gives you, almost makes me want to experience it. You write it so clearly that I felt like I was right there with you.

    And, you are a wicked man for going skiing again and not coming to Eroticon. Naughty naughty!
    Only joking of course! I am very sorry that I cannot meet you then, but totally understand that you want to go on another ski trip to experience flow again! Enjoy!

    Rebel xox

  3. Molly

    I am sad you will not be joining us at Eroticon but I totally understand why… I think skiing for you is like being in a hot country for me and if someone offered me that then I might have to give Eroticon a miss too 😉

    And the image for this post, I saw it on Twitter and loved it then and still love it now.

    Happy skiiing Mr B


  4. Cammies on the Floor

    Snow skiing is one of my favorite winter activities. I veered off after reading so I could share a picture of me skiing, but realized that I don’t have any (apparently I’m the only one taking the pictures, which makes sense because I take my kids and I’m the best skier due to experience). I loved how you shared a picture of yourself. And your description of the mountain and being present in all that the mountain had to offer on skis was gorgeously done.

  5. May More

    An exhilarating read for sure! I have only ever been skiing once – loved it and always thought I would do it again but I just love the sun and sea too much – compromise 😉

  6. Mrs Fever

    Such an expertly crafted, subtly nuanced analogy. I knew I was reading about sex/y/ness even without the precise specification at the conclusion. The exhilaration was too soaring of a high to be anything else.

    This is the kind of writing that presses all my buttons. I have a mad crush on words, and there is no doubt I will be daydreaming about yours all day.

  7. Indie

    Beautiful. Nothing like an experience which leaves you on such a high. I sometimes get in the flow state when I’m artmaking.


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