Shoulder season euphoria

Telluride Daily Planet, Sunday, April 8, 2012

Off-season, thank god.

Seriously, what if we lived in the real world and didn’t have a bunch of weeks of unpaid leave, and had to just keep going to our jobs and doing tasks and problem solving day-in day-out 52 weeks a year excluding a few chintzy days to catch up? What if we didn’t have that shut-down feeling of dusty spells and surprise storms and then spring runoff and birds singing their brains out? What if we couln’t take a moment to stare out the window with a cup of coffee considering things, things we don’t graze on much, like dreams and the wonders of the natural world? There’s room to breathe now. To feel rich with hours.

Why are we so desperate for off-season? Why wouldn’t we be desperate? I agree with whichever theorist said that we are compensating for not taking Sunday — the off-season of the week — off. For not taking lunch — the off-season of the day — seriously. And for not taking awareness — the off-season of the moment — to heart.

What if we could give our brains an off-season — turn them down a notch so that all the words could get smaller and then finally just fade out for a few seconds at a time into a blip of soft, deep, heart-beating gray? We could stop thinking about all the things we had to do, like paint and pay bills and get rid of clutter and rake.


What if you could rake your mind? Make little piles and then do that Zen garden thing on it with the one rock and the contour lines? What would the “rake” be — would it be a willpower rake? With fingers of analysis and a meditation handle? Or fingers of letting go and a focus handle? And what would we be raking? Would it matter? On the other hand, maybe raking is not what we’d be doing in the off-season of our sandy minds, we’d be doing something like … walking the length of a metaphorical beach on the other side of the metaphorical world.

Wait, is a beach a metaphor? Of course: Even a metaphor is a metaphor. As in, “She was walking the beach of her mind. Relaxing into a new kind of inner beach combing, delicately picking up other metaphors and examining them in a non-rushed and leisurely way.” No, she was not exempt from collecting the washed up plastic trash on the shores of rationality, the kind of plastic trash that she hoped against hope was biodegradable. Hahaha, fat chance, sweetheart, because some of that dross, you will have to live with like everyone else. Good thing there are finer things on her quote-unquote beach to pick up and finger, like those little shells that are worn down enough to see the entire spiral except its top secret center.

For that matter, why would anyone ever use a simile with metaphors around, anyway? Why would anyone say, “Off-season is like a rolling field in the Colorado-like state of my life,” when they could say, “Off season is a rolling field in the Colorado of my life.” A simile is like Cool Whip to metaphor’s heavy cream. A simile is chicken nuggets to the perfect roast chicken of metaphor. Which would you rather have?

Seriously though, what if this place just cranked on week after week doing the same thing it does without stopping, relentlessly, ceaselessly trying to make people happy (because we live in beautiful spot and therefore must lead beautiful lives) — but without downtime. How would we remember the beauty if we were too busy? Is being too busy a metaphor for being asleep? Is being asleep a metaphor for understanding nothing, including metaphors?

What would get us from winter to summer, from one set of other people’s vacations to another, if it weren’t the shoulder seasons? Soft, creamy shoulder seasons. Broad shoulder seasons. Or “careful, shoulder work ahead” shoulder seasons. Note they don’t say “shoulder-like work ahead” over there at CDOT. If a government agency uses metaphors, shouldn’t that tell us something? Just because they don’t specifically ask you “Who are the flagmen of your life?” doesn’t mean it’s not implied.

As we drive the soft-shouldered byways of off-season, might we not consider slowing our electric-car bodies down … down… down … to the point of not hearing the engine at all, not hearing it stall, and then not noticing that we’ve come to a complete halt? Because that’s probably where the real [insert your own definition of real here] off-season can find purchase to take root.

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