February 6th would have been my dear friend Blue’s birthday, and is the first time in 42 years I won’t be sending a card, talking with him over the phone, or celebrating in person. I was supposed to be out west this week, back to my beloved mountains. I had planned to go to the top of the mountain and ski the back bowl on his birthday, the run you will read about shortly. Last year, I was writing this story right around the time it turned out he had passed away, although I didn’t know it at that point. So, since COVID Captivity has prevented my return to the west and my quiet time of reflection I would like to share this excerpt from my book with you. If I shut my eyes I can easily return to the mountains, and feel my friend’s presence.

Glorious ski day
Picture of me at the top and the run where it all happened

In the winter of 1981, I was being tortured. Grad school was killing me and statistics, the worst course in the world was my ADHD brain’s undoing. One night after a particularly brutal day in the trenches I drank a lot of very cheap wine and then hopped on a plane, criss-crossing my way across the U.S., until miraculously I landed in Vancouver, B.C.  Blackcomb ski resort had just opened and my best friend Blue was managing one of the first restaurants.

We had met in undergrad and he’d put up with my shenanigans long past most people’s tolerance level, so when I needed to run away again it was obvious that I would gravitate to his part of the world. He was always tried and true in the unconditional love department, and had vast quantities of patience to listen to my rants, and let me find my own way back to sanity. I always knew he was there if I needed him and I hope he thought the same.

We drove out west together one summer to work to pay for our next year’s tuition. I may have mentioned I have Mennonite origins, so according to my mother’s sense of propriety, it was not acceptable for me to drive 2400 miles to the beautiful mountain community of Banff, with a man. After many hours explaining to my mom that we were just friends and it was a practical, sound, financially prudent decision – I was broke, and he had room in his car- I won the argument and we set out.

One of Blue’s fondest memories of that trip was my insistence we stop in a motel that had two twin beds to rest. At the motel I locked myself in the bathroom, while he got into his bed and then in the dark, after having changed into my terrycloth adult onesies, you know the ones complete with the feet and the trap door that were very popular at the time, I sprinted from the bathroom and jumped into my bed and pulled the covers right over my head. Years later, Blue was fond of saying that that outfit squelched any thought he may have had for romance.

Once I had recovered from my fairly significant hangover, I proceeded to make myself useful and help him in the restaurant serving customers and cleaning up raw sewage after the pipes broke, twice! We rarely had time off in the ten calamitous days it took for me to realize waitressing and being a ski bum was probably not the right career for me. It was amazing though, the one glorious ski day we had together to forget our plumbing problems, and the plumbing of the depths of my mind about whether or not to go back to grad school.

That day, Blue and I were going to the very top of the mountain and skiing in a back bowl.  There was no one around. The infinite, breathtaking beauty of the mountains to this day brings me to a hard stop at the top, every time.  I never get tired of looking out over the vast expanse of craggy, jagged peaks with their snow, glorious snow, and the sun’s reflection that can almost blind you with the particular light that comes with the merger of rock, snow and sun.

Whistler Back Bowl
The run where it happened

 We made our way over to the edge of the run and when peering over the side I said to Blue: “You go first, forge the path as I’m way slower than you and I’ll catch up in a bit.” He smiled and said “Catch you on the flip side” and he was off skiing like the Olympian he could have been.

When my ski legs and courage kicked in, I pushed off the edge, feeling a lightness of being and peace that is firmly planted on my neuro pathways to this day. However, it didn’t take much time before the Zen feelings were replaced by a sensation of incredulity as, much to my amazement, I sighted a bare-naked bum going due west of my current due south skiing trajectory.

 If you were a skier in the 1980s you will remember that the fashionable ski clothing was a bibbed farmer pant style. As previously mentioned, Blackcomb had just opened and it was quite isolated with few bathroom facilities. Well, when you are high up in the mountains and nature calls for more than a mindful experience, you gotta go, when you gotta go. This woman in her moment of need had found a grove of trees, to the one side of this fairly steep run. She had kept her skis on, parallel to the side of the hill and pulled down her pants, below her knees but unbeknownst to her, as she bent and did her business, she was on a declining slope.  Due to her pants being locked below her knees, when she started to sail out of the grove, bare ass to the wind, there was nothing she could do, bound by her pants on her runaway skis. She was skiing directly into my path, going west, when I was going south. It was one of those situations where you just react in time to save yours and another’s bacon.

I took the fall for the hapless urinator, narrowly avoiding a head on collision.   Still on a fairly steep incline, I managed to get my skis off and scrambled over to this poor woman, whose nether regions I am sure, had never been exposed to the elements like this. Between the two of us, we got her pants unlocked from her knees, and gingerly backed up together to retrieve her ski poles from the toilet grove. After a brief discussion on how men have it far easier than women in the need to go department, and that she likely will not ever feel pain from childbirth as she had now experienced this assault to her privates, we bid adieu.

That day continued to go hilariously “downhill”. Thankfully, my new snow streaker friend’s dignity was left somewhat intact as Blue had missed the whole show.  When I caught up with him, quite a long while later, he asked “What took so long?” I said that an incident had occurred on the hill and I felt it was a sign from the universe, a nature-filled, wintry message  that I should return to grad school. It seemed so clear in that moment that I should continue with my plan to help people who are stuck in situations that need unsticking, in order for them to find happiness and peace. I realized that the ski pant incident was a metaphor for the therapeutic process and that I should go back to school to continue learning about it. One is often stuck with belief systems that cause you to go in a direction you don’t want to go, and it will often lead to a crash, where you are humbled and brought to your knees and the realization slowly dawns that you have to change the trajectory your life is on……….You will find the rest of this chapter in my soon to be published book.

So, this year my dear friend, it is a story for your birthday, instead of a card, of just one of our marvelous adventures together.  I know wherever you are it’s a Whistler-Blackcomb bluebird day, every day.

Categories: Grieving

29 Comments

Linda Henshaw · 6 February 2021 at 13 h 19 min

This was a great story and what a fantastic tribute to a partner in crime. The photos are breathtaking as well. There is something so incredible about being in the Rockies. This had me laughing in a number of places – you certainly have a way with words – and it also had me in tears at the end. Good friends who die, especially those who choose not to subject us to their dying, leave an incredible void. That void appears at the oddest times and can leave you both bereft at the immense loss and laughing at the craziness and at the great memories. This was definitely a cathartic read for me today.

Kim · 6 February 2021 at 13 h 27 min

Thanks for the giggle and for the many times and for “unlocking my pants” many times! What a great story. Blue is smiling somewhere out there.

    Gaye Gould · 9 February 2021 at 9 h 29 min

    I know he is smiling and getting into all kinds of mischief! 🙂

Susan Gaden · 6 February 2021 at 14 h 19 min

Wonderful story and beautiful pictures. This is what they call in the movies an ‘origin story’. Travel and adventures when we are young leave indelible marks on us and send our lives in unknown directions. I lost 2 good friends and 1 cousin this past year. We never forget them because there are constant reminders around us of the memories and adventures we shared.

    Gaye Gould · 9 February 2021 at 9 h 31 min

    Thank you, Susan. I am so sorry to hear of your losses. Wow, three people in one year. That is an incredible amount of grief to process in a short period of time. Looking forward to connecting with you and the family on the Valentine’s zoom call. Take care.

Leslie · 6 February 2021 at 15 h 18 min

Gaye, Beautiful tribute to a true blue buddy that only you could write in such a humorous and loving way. Thank you for letting us meet Blue. I love how the universe that knows no time allowed you two to spend grand and sweeping moments together. Blue will meet so many of us when we curl up to read your book. We are so lucky.

    Gaye Gould · 9 February 2021 at 9 h 33 min

    Thank you Leslie. I love your statement ‘the universe that knows no time”. What a beautiful way to state that fact. I am hoping to curl up and read your book just as soon as it is out there. Miss you and your wonderful kindness.

Antonette Estrela · 6 February 2021 at 18 h 06 min

Gaye, I so enjoyed your story about unconditional friendship .
Looking forward to more.
Antonette

    Gaye Gould · 9 February 2021 at 9 h 33 min

    Thank you Antonette. It was a wonderful friendship. Unconditional at its’ finest. Hope you and the family are well living out this crazy time of covid captivity.

Mel H · 6 February 2021 at 18 h 24 min

Your kindred Blue is laughing, shaking his head. To know you is to love your spirit. I’m looking so forward to reading more shenanigans as that is what keeps you kindreds forever ✨❤️✨

    Gaye Gould · 9 February 2021 at 9 h 34 min

    Thank you Mel. I have LOTS of shenanigans in my life. There aren’t enough chapters in a book to document them all!! 🙂

Valerie Fleck · 7 February 2021 at 9 h 32 min

What a beautiful story in a very special place

    Gaye Gould · 9 February 2021 at 9 h 35 min

    Thank you, Val. It is a very special space and the good thing about the Rockies is that they have been around a long time and will be there waiting for me and others when this time of covid captivity is over.

Heather Doyle · 7 February 2021 at 18 h 05 min

Gaye, loved your story, and your tribute to a special friend. The mountains are an incredible place. Hopefully you will be back there soon!

    Gaye Gould · 9 February 2021 at 9 h 36 min

    Thank you, Heather. I so look forward to my return. The reality is the mountains have been there a long time and endured the ages, so I am sure I will be able to return again to their splendour and beauty.

Michele · 8 February 2021 at 10 h 44 min

Amazingly written Gaye, always thought provoking & insightful. My condolences for the loss of your good friend.

    Gaye Gould · 9 February 2021 at 9 h 36 min

    Thanks so much Michelle. Kind of you to take the time to read my blog. I really appreciate it.

Ann · 8 February 2021 at 17 h 53 min

Gaye, the perfect birthday card to Blue, sharing this funny, heartwarming story with us. The problem with losing long time friends is we feel cheated, ripped off, mad even, because there was supposed to be so much more and we aren’t sure what the world looks like without them. What you did have was 42 years of an incredible friendship that you will carry in your heart always and be especially reminded of when in the Rockies 💚

Gaye Gould · 9 February 2021 at 9 h 40 min

Thanks Ann. You are so right. I feel blessed that I had so many years with Blue and all my wonderful friends. I never want to take time for granted. I think if Covid captivity and the absence of seeing people in person has taught me one very important thing it is that friendship and connectivity with people is a far deeper commitment to a relationship than just getting together in a restaurant or wherever to meet in person. It can be so great just to chat on the phone, or think about another person in the quiet and peace of the day.

Diane Hamilton · 9 February 2021 at 10 h 47 min

Hi Gaye,
I have always said that life is a journey. Paths change which bring new paths. Your path changed with the “urinator” Love that you called her that. Your journey with your friend Blue is a remarkable story of how long your paths together lasted. Many people never have the chance or opportunity to have that type of connection that lasts so long. I remember meeting you and how you changed my life path. You taught me how my compassion can help others with ACTION. I was lucky enough to create some amazing things with you that helped cause change with students in the GTA and kids in Africa. You sparked something in me which I am forever grateful for.

    Gaye Gould · 12 February 2021 at 16 h 48 min

    Hi Diane,
    It was a fabulous mutual path crossing. Your passion for helping humanity and your amazing energy and creativity was impossible for me to not join in, and learn so much from you as we embarked on some incredible adventures in volunteerism. For that I will be forever grateful.
    I was just thinking the other day about your idea to do the Guiness Book of World Records and we PULLED IT OFF! Wow!!! That feels like a hundred years ago right now. What fun that was! xoxo

      diane · 13 February 2021 at 8 h 30 min

      Wow this email just made my day. It has been too long since I have seen you. Funny you mentioned about the World Record as I was just thinking about that the other day. I think we should do another one. Let me put my thinking cap on. Maybe for a different cause.?I look forward to the day that we can socialize and you will be one of the first people I would LOVE to see. Oh, I also have a new title for you Compassionate HERO!!!! Be safe Be well. Miss you my friend.

Sonia Desrosiers · 9 February 2021 at 14 h 17 min

Thanks for sharing the incredibly funny adventures you had with your friend Blue. Somehow you always pick the right words to add your great sense of humour to your stories. But this is unfortunately a time of sadness for you…. sorry for your loss.

    Gaye Gould · 12 February 2021 at 16 h 58 min

    Hi Sonia,

    I have some pretty fantastic memories and they keep me warm these days. I miss my mountains so much, and can hardly wait to get back out there.
    xoxo

Sandra · 15 February 2021 at 8 h 35 min

Your adventure & the way you describe it brings so many experiences back from my memory…how that one event can be the universe speaking to us to change our path…its the souls in our lives that shape our own.

Love & peace to Blue – without him you may never have crashed into the urinator & helped so many people unravel their ” tangles”💛

    Gaye Gould · 15 February 2021 at 9 h 31 min

    You are so right,Sandra!! I often wonder if that whole incident hadn’t happened what I would have done with my life. I feel the mountain side situation was somehow ordained by the universe to set me up to see that I needed to return to grad school and carry on with my torturous education, but just get the credentials that would allow me to do what I actually love to do.

Darlene McKaig · 10 May 2021 at 15 h 50 min

Gaye
How grateful I am to have reconnected with you after all these years. Sorry about your friend Blue, but I understand your wonder of the Rockies. I lived there myself for six years. Long term friendships are great to have and the way you described yours and Blue’s is truly wonderful and loving. I am looking forward to reading more of your blogs and learning more about you in ways I had no idea. Stay safe and thanks.

    Gaye Gould · 10 May 2021 at 17 h 46 min

    Hi Darlene,
    Thank you for your very kind words. I look forward to writing more blogs and having your feedback.

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