Second skiing dream in two nights: two different kinds of skiing, but in both the surface I am skiing upon is gone. I am trying to tell myself something; I'm not sure what.

Night before last:

I'm at the lake house in Pennsylvania. We get up to go water skiing in the morning as we usually do, before all the other boats have put wakes in the water. But the lake has been lowered to a point where only the south end has any depth of water at all, and this is still quite shallow. I am driving (or am I the one skiing?) on mud, on an empty lake. It's not clear: I am moving across the bottom like a fish, or a missile, or a camera mounted on the front of an airplane or a helicopter. Fisherman with large boots have waded out into the mud and cast their lines, heavy lines, across the width of the lake. I have to swerve to avoid them, and the boat slips and slides on the mud and does not handle well.

Last night:

I am wrestling with a problem on differential operators, a standard result I know how to reproduce, but it is not coming out right. There is a critical step that I know is there, but I'm not able to take it, like one of those corridor camera effects (zoom-in-dolly-out) where things elongate and elongate to infinity. I am trying to move toward the solution but it is not getting any closer. I am awake briefly at 4 a.m. and in my disorientation I'm not sure whether the problem is solvable or not, or why I'm trying to solve it, or why it is causing so much difficulty.

-- I roll over and go back to sleep --

We always ski in Utah because we have a house at the base of Solitude, but now we aren't there. We have come somewhere else to ski, a place very high up in unfamiliar mountains, and we arrive on thin jet planes that turn into gliders as they land, a sort of smooth transformation of the nose and wings, accompanied by muffled hydraulic and mechanical sounds. They land right in the woods, no runway, coasting to a stop between the trees, breaking off the top crusted layer of snow as they do so, like swans coasting to a landing on a pond. It is quite beautiful. As we gather our things it is morning; you can see the sunlight falling in diagonals as it sweeps through the aspen and birch.

We have dinner and go to sleep for the night in a kind of chalet, but we are preparing for something. The others seem to know what it is, but I don't, and I never think to ask. The next day we get dressed but when I get out to the mountain I am shirtless, in fact I seem to have no ski supplies at all for anything above my waist. It is sunny and warm enough that I do not notice, but as soon as it is pointed out I am cold and shivering. My brother is there, and lends me some of his.

The mountain is quite bare in patches, and we eventually find that we are having to leap from patch to patch to stay on snow. Great leaps over rocks and headwalls and gullies. Finally we are skiing on grass, and somehow this is not a problem. The cross-country skiers have adapted to it extremely well, or their skis have become grass skis, it's not clear which. We decide to postpone skiing until nightfall, when there will be more snow.

It is night. It is clear with bright stars and a heavy yellow moon, and gentle, backlit wisps of clouds. Instead of lifts to take us to the top of the mountain there are aircraft, quite unusual ones again, taking off more like rockets (pointing up) but quiet and stealthy, almost silent, not at all disturbing the night air. I see two take off and they become gliders again, passing overhead and moving in and out of the clouds.

The others announce that they are headed for their transport, but in making my way there I am stuck clinging to a snowy cliffwall, bare hands into the snow. It is stiff and icy, and I can feel the crystals digging into my fingernails, but it is holding. I am having trouble climbing because I'm unable to kick into the snow below me, so I am stuck hanging by my hands. I am making slow progress with just my arms, but the launchpad is far above me and I'm not going to make it. My glider takes off without me.

I drop from the cliffwall into a chute and ski down to watch the gliders coast up to the top of the mountain. When I look up and spot one of them it is in trouble, flipping over like a paper airplane does in mid-flight when you haven't got the wings folded right. Upside-down for a while and then rolling back to upright it makes a controlled descent to a patch of the woods down a path from where I am watching, and crashes into the tree canopy. I start into a run; the snow crunching under my feet and my breath are the only sounds I can hear. When I arrive I find that the fuselage has broken open from the crash, and several of them have been thrown from the cabin, but they are all OK