There were not enough words to describe Russia. They flowed effortlessly onto the page, they overflowed: first onto paper, every day, something of a stream of consciousness; and then onto the screen, this time with structure. I had to limit myself, to choose which of the endless stories to share.
On to Austria: a mountain village: an empty page, an empty screen. Where were the words? I forced myself to write notes every now and then of what had happened over the past few days, the past weeks, but the words were stilted, lifeless. I spent hours writing my blog yet still felt dissatisfied, as if I hadn’t done justice to all I wanted to convey.
Now I’m in Innsbruck, but before term starts tomorrow I would like to add some colour to the few sketches I made of Scheffau. No doubt the picture will remain incomplete, but we will content ourselves with imperfection.
A painting of real life is never free of shadows. The hardest thing for me about working as a ski instructor in a small, quiet mountain village was the free time in the evening. Long evenings, especially in December when the sun would set early. There weren’t many of us in the team and we lived spread out across the villages and towns of the area. Occasionally, we went out to one of the other villages (Scheffau itself has no nightlife), but for various reasons, we didn’t go out as often as I might have expected. Ski, eat, drink (sometimes), sleep, repeat. I’m used to having lots of friends around me, used to a busy schedule. Towards the end, my colleagues began to leave, and I couldn’t wait to move to Innsbruck, with the promise of student life again.
Thankfully, for shadows to exist, there must also be light, and the mountains were no exception: bright sunshine in a brilliant blue sky, sunlight reflecting off the snow, blinding; and joy.
I need rich colours now on my palette, to capture time spent with school and university friends, to illustrate a day spent skiing with my wonderful family, just like we used to every year on holiday (except that this time I was faster than my brother). I need a glittering silver paint to describe a Saturday night’s ski tour, when we hiked up into the mountains on skis, a full moon lighting our way, and skied back down far from the piste. Vibrant colours for carnival on Tuesday: we celebrated at the top of the mountain and skied down in the dark (I would strongly advise against skiing a black slope without a head-torch after a generous quantity of schnapps and nothing to eat). Little things too, like all the time I spent skiing with Barbara, before work or on our days off, or skiing with my colleagues Gavin and Freddie and Wolfgang (an honour).
Light and dark and an abundance of colours: paintings in your mind’s eye, memories in mine.