Monday, 23 January 2012

Prayer, miracles and wonders

It never snows but it pours. All of last week we were wondering when the snow would finally reach Lake Tahoe. In the end, with our departure due the next day, we travelled up to the ski slopes on Friday to take our chances on the man-made snow, since the natural variety just wasn’t showing up. No sooner had we got there, though, than the real kind started to fall, so we had our day’s skiing under grey skies and with tiny, wet snowflakes stinging our faces as we struggled through the wind. 

We were even told, in the café on the slopes where we stopped for lunch, that we’d ‘timed that pretty damn’ well’, as they were going to shut immediately after our orders, having just been told that the ski-lift was closing down. One of the ski patrol people did tell us, with a charming smile (the friendliness and warmth of everyone we met was in stark contrast to the bitterness of the weather), ‘sure, you’ve got the time to eat your sandwiches, but don’t hang around, and if you look like being the last out, make a move for the door’.

By then the blizzard had got well under way, and all we could do was leap on the lift just before it shut and ski back down to the main station. It was a great day all the same, but truncated. Which made me think with wry amusement of the sign, we’d seen in the café where we had our lunch: ‘pray for snow’.

Faith invoked to overcome the drought
By next morning, the prayer had been miraculously answered, and the place was under a good blanket of snow, right down to the lakeside. We even had to fit chains to be able to drive away. Of course, for us, a day earlier would have been no bad thing. Timing is so important, isn’t it? A day’s skiing on fresh snow would have been a delight; instead we got to drive through it, which is much less fun.

Even so, I’m not complaining. We had a great time, however difficult the conditions and however short the day. And it was a relief to see some snow whenever it came, after so long when it looked like there’d be none. I even have to admit that, despite the lousy performance of most weather forecasters, who just kept pushing their prediction of snow back by a day each day, making me feel justified in thinking that one might just as well flip a coin, the local crowd did really well: right from the beginning of the week they said the snow would come on Friday, and they were bang on. They at least got the riming right. And showed me up for maligning them so mercilessly as I usually do (and no doubt will again).

An answer to a prayer - and vindication for a forecaster

Postscript. I loved the sign in the ski station, at the stop for the shuttle back to town: ‘Shuttle Bus to Gondola’.

A miraculous metamorphosis that would have been a wonder to behold
Now that’s a transformation I’d have loved to have seen. Would the driver have turned into an Italian with a fine tenor voice? Would his wooly hat have turned into a straw boater? Would his fleece-lined coat have turned into a stripy shirt? He might have been horribly cold, in the conditions.

But I never found out. We were in a hurry to get away. Timing again, you see. I had to be satisfied with miracle of snow falling in answer to a prayer. The even more miraculous conversion of a bus into a gondola was a wonder I would simply be denied.

Post-postscript. When we got back to the San Francisco Bay Area, I was struck by a pair of road signs: to the left ‘Ex’pression College’, with that apostrophe, for which I can think of absolutely no meaning; to the right, the ‘National Holistic Institute’. 

Yes, I thought, we’re back in the San Francisco area. All it would have needed to complete the picture was a few chanting monks in saffron robes. 

That evening Danielle and I went out to Japantown, which we'd never previously visited, travelling as we have on every occasion in this visit, by cable car. At our age, behaving like complete tourists no longer embarrasses us, so we can just let ourselves go and enjoy the pleasure. As well as a pleasant Korean meal in Japantown (yes, yes, I know, we thought it was Japanese until we were inside), we were delighted by the many people we met on the way back, who were all heading for an Edwardian evening.

Wonders of the San Francisco streets
A wondrous sight, and just what one might hope for from that great city, it provided a good way of wrapping up Danielle's visit here. I stay on for another six days.

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