Take a moment to imagine it’s snowing.
My first day at a new job in Lander, Wyoming, I was greeted by a sign that said these words “Take a moment to imagine it’s snowing.” It was handwritten, and posted on the partition of the cubicle next to me. I didn't it know then, but the man who made this sign, would go on to become an important part of my life.
Later that same day, I met the man who made this sign, and he invited me to crash at his place, indefinitely, within 15 minutes of meeting him. That was just the sort of guy he was. All in, from the get go. Being new to town, and currently residing at the infamous Noble Hotel, I took him up on his offer. Little did I know, I would remain sharing a roof with the man, off and on, for the next 4 years of my life.
The man who made this sign had many faults, but negativity was not one of them. He remains, in my view, as someone with one of the most uniquely positive spins on life I have ever witnessed. Sometimes annoyingly so. Bad snow? A chance to work on riding switch in challenging conditions. Got dumped? A chance to call that good looking lifty you met at the wolf the other day. The glass was always full, to the man that made this sign, unless that glass was full of cheap champagne, in which case it was always, always empty. And you better have more champagne.
The man who made this sign loved electronic music, psychedelics, burning man, and all manner of hippy shit, that I never fully understood. But more than that, he was a good man, with a huge heart, and a true ski bum. For those of you outside of mountain culture, you need to understand that ski bums are the soul of a mountain, the heartbeat of a community. And the man was truly that. He was maybe the first true ski bum I ever met, and maybe the most genuine. He introduced me to the thought that what you wanted in life was attainable, if what you wanted were the simple pleasures of a good pow day, a well formed turn, and pleasant company. He was never the greatest rider on the mountain, but he was always there, on the mountain, having a good time, doing what he loved. The man who made this sign taught me that if all you wanted was a bit of daily happiness, and could go without in other “comfort related” matters of life, the world was yours for the taking. Winters were for snowboarding, summers for rafting. Thats all that really mattered. Soul over success, or rather, soul is success, as the man would oft say.
The man who made this sign would commute 4 hours each way, from Lander, WY to Driggs, ID to work as a snowboard instructor for Grand Targhee Resort on the weekends. He mainly slept on couches, and floors at the now infamous 5th street house, in true ski bum fashion. Accompanying the man on an adventure one weekend, he introduced me to a place that would become my hometown, to lifelong friends, and an outlook on life that I now cannot look back from. Eventually, the man and I decided to move to Driggs full time. The man was coming anyhow for the winter, and I could now work from anywhere, so we kept the party going.
When we finally left Lander to move to Driggs, we both got rid of everything that wouldn't fit inside our pickups, and drove west. A solid half of his full size truck bed was nothing but tupperware bins of costumes. The man simply said “Dan, you’re moving to a ski town now, costumes are pretty important.” Like many things, I didn't really understand it at the moment, but this too, proved true, in time. The man had wisdom.
The night I closed on my house in Driggs, The man who made this sign was there. The man had several strangers, thirsty travelers in tow, ready to celebrate. It was just his way, the man went out of his way to include folks, no matter the cost. Walking around the house, tapping on walls, he would raise the question “hey, is this thing load bearing? Lets take it out.” That night, he slept on the floor in the corner, and with a smiling face in the morning, muttered “This is gonna be a great winter bud.”
Time passed on this way for a while, a couple seasons, us sharing a roof in a ski town, living the dream. He would jet off for summers in Oregon on the water, and be back for winters here. We would gather and play board games to fight off the cabin fever. I will always remember this period of my life as being defining, and the man who made this sign was a big part of that, probably more than he would ever know. I realized then, what the man had already known long before, that life in a western ski town can sometimes be hard, but in the end, it is where I need to be. I will always be thankful for that.
As time moved on, the man drifted to Oregon more or less full time, and while we still kept in touch, long chats were few and far between. I had new jobs here and there, and now a serious woman in my life, and failed to make time for the day to day pleasant banter, and rounds of humor with a good friend. I can see that now. I was secretly happy that he had left stuff in my basement for years, as it meant I would get to randomly see the man if he needed things. I was looking forward to him coming to my wedding this summer. True to the mans nature, a note on his RSVP simply said “How many guests would be considered ‘too many’ to bring?”
I write this small remembrance about the man, as my van still sits fully loaded in the driveway, after packing it up last night. Today was the day Sarah and I were headed out to Oregon to see him, and catch up over his favorite kind of scene, a long weekend full of exploring, camping, fireworks, American flags, and doing all manner of hippy shit in the Oregon desert. But the van won’t be moving today. It won’t be moving because the man who made this sign is gone, and I don’t understand why.
Many people, most smarter than myself, have pondered what the measure of a life is. How does one measure success, or failure. A life well spent, or a life squandered. How does one measure inspiration, or comfort brought to others, in any tangible sort of way. Maybe the only way, is to judge the toll it takes on those left behind. How big the hole, how deep the scar. Many people have attempted to answer this question, but I will not. I will simply say, it’s a shitty question to ask, and one with an answer that will never really make sense. As I grow older, I realize that this is the case more and more, as much as I dislike the acceptance of it.
The man who made this sign was simply known to all as Griffin. I doubt most folks ever learned his first name, but he preferred it that way. I have no idea why he chose to end his time here, but have also accepted that maybe it’s not my place to ever know. It was well lived by any measure. I simply choose to remember the spirit of a great friend, and the outstanding human he was. Every time I see it snowing, I will think of you my friend.
Take a moment to imagine it’s snowing.