The weather changed this weekend. Summer, the longest and most violently summery one I can remember, finally loosened it’s grasp and slipped below the Earth’s waistline to shine and heat another world for the next half year or so. I was thankful to see the rain return after such a dry year and having the clouds dance on the mountains again gives perspective to the mighty black rocks we live under. Soon the white devil of winter will come creeping down from the sky, tiptoeing down the peaks and bringing a new blank canvas onto which we can paint our excitement; an empty white page and our skis and boards as the blinking cursor ready to draft a new entry into the year’s diary.
This time of year, when one mighty season slowly transitions into it’s polar opposite, provide us with time to reflect – both internally and externally – and inquire about how we can manufacture the conditions for future fun to the best of our abilities. As I strolled in the rain with my morning cup of coffee and Khyber running from scented leaf to tinkled bush I remembered this little thing I scribbled for Spoke Magazine’s 50th issue about two years ago almost around this same time of year. Spoke is one of the (if not THE) best mountain bike magazines out there. I’m glad it lives. Today I subscribed to Stack Magazines, a service that delivers a fresh, perhaps unheard of independent magazine to subscribers each month. I look forward to what comes my way. Winter always gives me more chance for reading and this year I plan on being ravenous.
Last of the summer whine
by Seb Kemp
Let me describe something to you: Upon my cluttered desk there’s a steaming cup of tea and twice already I’ve held it just for warmth. I’m wrapped up in two hoodies, a beanie, and thick socks. The heating is on but still the cold clamps the muscles in my back. To my left is a window. Through it I can see the barbecue grill is in danger of being swallowed up by the rising tide of snow fall from the roof. Beyond that, the small patch of woodland around the creek is blanketed; the creek itself is nothing more than a weak dribble and will soon be halted entirely by icy crystals. If I crane my head a little I can see Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. I can make out the Village Gondola and the areas where some of my favorite bike park trails run through. But the trails don’t exist right now because the whole mountain is caked in a cape of devils dandruff. Winter is locked and loaded here. Snow toys have been dug out of the garage and bikes have been put away dirty. Summer is a memory and a daydream.
To the right of my desk is a shelf full of books and magazines. Amongst the paperbacks and glossy snapshots is a special section I reserve for issues of Spoke. Today I dove into this treasury, looking for a reminder of warmer times, and somewhere beautiful from the past that I hope will loop around and be my future. Imagination and hope fighting the wintery inevitability.
These creased and crumpled periodicals transport me away from my chilly surroundings faster than any jet flight can. It might only be neatly trimmed pulp, as flimsy as a bouquet of flowers, but delving into the images of familiar faces and places triggers a snow storm of memories of the times I’ve spent in New Zealand.
The flakes of reminiscences float past my mind’s eye, bringing with it the images of lush green bush, turquoise lakes, tussock covered mountains, fiords, volcano cones, and bubbling hot springs. New Zealand is Eden, an Eden dressed in DoC tracks, sculpted lips, flat-out firebreak turns, dusty ribbons of trails, beech leaf litter covered sinews of singletrack, and GCs willing to share a beer at the end of every ride.
Outside, the snow really has started to fall now. Big fluffy flakes, gently floating to the ground. Choking out any chance for summer games. There’s always a hush that accompanies a snowfall, but this one also muffles the last echoing whoops from long evenings on even longer trails. Summer sounds are deadened. The only sound now is made by the pages of Spoke turning between my fingers. Each new page full of sun, warmth, joy, fun and games. I try to escape the snow globe around me by falling through the porthole on the pages. It’s like finding a treasure map to a time machine. A direct line back to the places and faces I came to know and love in New Zealand’s summer time. As a shiver rustles me and my many layers I truly wonder why I am not in New Zealand’s ferny bosom right now.
Each issue of the magazine acts like a torch helping me escape from the bleached backdrop of my present, to somewhere where beauty and adventure could thaw my bones. Somewhere filled with happy people, hardy people, hospitable people. These pages warm me, even when it’s five below and dropping. Bloody winter. Only 50 more days until the winter solstice, from there on it’s all downhill.
NOTE: Seb doesn’t hate winter, he just prefers summer.