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Smile if you’re breathing



By Mike Mannelin Columnist

There’s something about moving that keeps life fresh. I’m one of those transient people who can’t sit still for long. Each place I find myself in brings me into a unique culture of individuals, each one different.

Whether it’s Minnesota, southwest Montana or somewhere in Alaska, the places I’ve traveled and lived have grabbed hold of me for a portion of my existence, each one changing me a little as I bounce down the road of life. These changes happen without any cognitive recognition, that is, at least, until moments of hindsight years or even decades after they take effect.

I’ve seen that when some people move around like this, they imagine they can affect change on the new neighborhoods they visit. But we should instead look at each place as an establishment of characters, setting our own egos aside and taking in a deep breath of local air, respecting the preset atmosphere and looking quietly at how it could change us from the inside out.

With another month left at map coordinates near Haines, Alaska, I’m taking that breath and looking around at the people surrounding me. Each individual has his own purpose in the rest of life, but locally, each also has the same mindset: We’re all here to spend time in the mountains with our peers.

We take this stroke of fortune with all seriousness and respect, knowing that there’s nothing permanent or secure about it. There is no guarantee that we’ll get to go skiing with each other tomorrow, so we embrace the gift of time in the light of the day. We share the moments in the mountains, then the firm handshakes and the knowing eye contact back on the ground. It’s another “good to see you,” or just a smile. Will it be there tomorrow? The universe only knows the answer.

Each different laugh, strange accent or goofy look has every soul tied into life as an irreplaceable friend. Occasionally, time runs out for a friend, and he or she packs up to move to a new existence. So, I look to friends remaining in the present and feel gratitude for the sense of routine in seeing a familiar face day after day.

In a month I’ll pack up my life again and head to another place 1,000 miles away. There, I hope to surround myself with again with like-minded souls. We’ll laugh and goof off and sometimes take life for granted. There will be no wondering what ways this will change us, because it won’t matter.

It will happen, and when tomorrow becomes today, we’ll recognize the change, and appreciate the time spent for what it was yesterday.

Until then, I’m surrounding myself with people I’m lucky to know. We’re all standing on the proverbial highway, staring down the dashed yellow centerline towards the next bend in the road as it disappears out of sight.

Mike Mannelin has been skiing Big Sky with friends for 15 winters. He is a guide for
Alaska Heliskiing, and spends his summers in a remote cabin with his wife, dog and some friendly brown bears.

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