Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Volks Ski Fest, Part II: Discretion and valor at Cascade

It was another beautiful day for skiing on the North Shore. It's Volks Ski Fest, and a small group gathered at Cascade Lodge on Saturday for an interpretive outing on the extensive Cascade system. Though I was the naturalist guide, I needed an English major bad. Or, um, "badly."

In my one-person attempt to reinstill pithy quotes into outdoor experiences, I often pull out the following: "Discretion is the better part of valor," from some unknown dead white guy. Yesterday I turned to my International Thesaurus of Quotations to find not only is my quote wrong, but the author is a rather well-known dead white guy.


Eduard von Grützner: Falstaff mit großer Weinkanne und Becher, 1896 Oil on canvas, 46 x 38 cm

"The better part of valour is discretion,"says Falstaff in the final act of Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part One, in his best Falstaffian iambic pentameter (the way I remembered it doesn't scan). Apparently he is excusing himself for playing dead so some Scotsmen don't actually kill him.

What did some Volk do at my Volks Ski Fest guided ski trip at Cascade Lodge last Saturday? Who is Falstaff in this picture? On the left is my younger son, age 11, deciding what to do on a "More Difficult" downhill. On the right is Dave C. of Little Marais, who has already made his decision to walk down the hill.



Dave, the wise old man, decides on discretion. The younger son, the eager young man, considers valor. Then he too chooses discretion and walks the hill.

Is walking down a ski hill the same as playing dead? Or is it trying to not be dead?

Did I mention that Henry IV Part One is full of father-son dynamics? Did I mention that my father was on this ski trip too? Or that iambic pentameter is a perfect meter for cross country skiing:

a-LEFT a-RIGHT a-LEFT a-RIGHT a-SCHUSS.
a-LEFT a-RIGHT a-LEFT a-RIGHT a-SCHUSS.
Turn here or else you all will crash or worse.

Me? I bombed the hill. Call me Hotspur, the character in the play known for his fierceness in battle and hastiness of action.

Geez, the whole darn ski outing could have been deconstructed by an English major with the right training.

Coming next: More family dynamics on the Gunflint Trail

5 comments:

Dave Carlson said...

I was a wimp on that downhill final at Cascade.

Discretion was the fear instilled before winter started, when two friends broke bones doing simple things. One fell the first night curling at Two Harbors, where she and her husband have been in a mixed league for several years. She's out for the season. The other stepped wrong on a patch of ice on her way out the backdoor.

I stopped curling in Two Harbors two years ago, not because I fell on my head twice. I did not enjoy the nighttime winter drive down Highway 61, 40 miles each way dodging deer, and it always snowed at Encampment River.

Anonymous said...

Discretion was certainly the better part of valor for Sir John F. But what of his Prince Hal?

"In peace(and on the flats), there's nothing so becomes a man,
As modest stillness, and humility:
But when the blast(of wind on the downhill) blows in our ears,
The imitate the action of a tiger;
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage:
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;...
Now set the teeth, and stretch the nostril wide;
Hold hard the breath, and bend up every spirit
To his full height!....

The parenthetical readings readings suggest that Shakespeare liked his downhill runs. But of course, I'm just a history major.

Kenspeckle

Blogging the North Shore said...

I think with all of this literature and curling, I will just change this blog to a Scottish culture discussion group.

Just kidding.

But wow could those Scots build lighthouses!

Dave Carlson said...

Do you have a sample of the special Scottish granite for curling stones?

Anyway, I fell twice this morning on the Northwoods trail east from Penn Blvd in Silver Bay, the easy loops. One fall was on a simple downslope, when I leaned backwards. The other, I stepped one ski on top of another at an intersection. It's a beautiful trail, but I've never tried the "For Experts Only" loop.

As for lighthouses, I think I sent you a photo of the Hook Lighthouse near the ruins of the Slade Castle in County Wexford, Ireland.

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