6am; generally associated with the time: retirees tune into their radios, mothers prepare to prepare, dog walkers walk, and obscure shift workers return home for the day. It’s a dreaded time, one that screams organisation and responsibility. It is almost certain that a young twenty something, still living at home liability, would have no interest in this 6 ante meridiem. It would likely be shooed away with the trusty, life postponing snooze button. However, this is the weekend and the element is with us.
On a snowy, Scottish January’s morn, this is the hour of gold. This is the hour of those who snowboard.
I am not an early riser, but this morning while the sun still slept, I rose to race it to the mountains of Glenshee. The valley of Glenshee is known as Gleann Sìth by our native speaking Scots, and translates to ‘glen of the fairies’. I can assure you with all my heart, there is no name more appropriate for this magical location. Much like the earth itself, the white slopes there happen only under the most precise conditions, a rarity treasured by those who hope for them. When this pearl of Perthshire does shine for us who wait, we rise and we rise early.
A quick stop for fuel and food and it begins. With civilisation in our rear view, the back roads are wild and unkept. The drive is dark, icy, windy, fast. Comfort swallowed by the vast shadow of night. Nocturnal life horrified into hiding by headlights illuminating their being. The treacherous journey before you is daunting and unknown… but welcome. One car. Two cars. Our army grows. Soon Bowie’s Starman sees a shining snake of light going hell for leather through the blackness. Onwards, eyes wide with excitement, this is our Santa.
Daylight caught us in the countryside but we did not give up, we chased it to our destination and now we rejoice. It’s presence gives visibility to our victory as at the foot of An Càrn Bhalg, the sun is yet to be seen.
I have been snowboarding for about four years now, though still very much a beginner due to our Scottish weather. Freedom is something often spoken about but seldom felt, and I can honestly say I have never experienced freedom until I picked up a snowboard. When I’m riding a poma to the top of a hill, I am gathering my limits, and through repeated accelerated descent, I am pushing them, changing them, crushing them. Air rushing by me, I glide at a speed that turns future to present and shows me the balance in which we exist. In a beautiful chemistry of gravity, gradient, snow and me, I live; truly. In that moment the separate entities in my world become one, they become me and I become them. We are.
My advice to you, whoever you are, is to find the thing that makes you feel alive. Alive is not just living, being alive is to feel overwhelming gratitude, indescribable joy, and to feel uncontainable, boundless, freeing love. The question is not why do we exist, but why do you exist? Try everything in pursuit of this answer, and put your poisoned parrot to shame when it says you can’t. Life starts at the edge of your convenience and when you discover your own potential you will find the most genuine version of yourself.
I believe that your true home is where your heart is; where your passion sets your soul alight. And as I look down from from a piste peak on Meall Odhar, I get a feeling of love and know that this sprite is home.