Origin Story

By: Jackson Hogen

Published: March 19, 2019

On March 13, 2009, I died.

As the astute reader will instantly sense, something is not quite right about that sentence. The problem is the verb. I write, “I died,” because we have no other word to describe what happened to me that day.

Allow me to start over with a chronology, so you’ll know this story is grounded in what we un-ironically refer to nowadays as “real time.”

March 13 was a Friday that year. On Monday I had contracted a flu-ish bug while standing in the rain on a sidewall in Boston. I had flown back east to visit with several of my old Yale roommates who had gathered to say farewell to one of our number, Scott McClintock, who was in the final stages of the life-draining disease that would claim him a few months later.

So I was fending off some intestinal rebellion when I joined my longtime wingman, Rick Stalker, for a purely recreational ski outing at Alpine Meadows. After a lovely spring ski day we enjoyed a couple of frosties on the deck before returning to our respective nests, Rick’s in Roseville and mine in Reno.

I had just crossed the California/Nevada border on the interstate when I began to feel queasy. I felt like I needed to release a gas balloon the size of the Hindenburg, but my rheumy illness made me fear if I unplugged the dirigible, gas might not be the only form of matter released. So I throttled back the urge, which, the doctor told me later, was what caused me to black out.

It’s impossible for me to say exactly when I lost consciousness, but I know it occurred on a section of road where there is no bailout. The Truckee River is a thin guardrail away on the right, and the two lanes of on-coming traffic are above the eastbound lanes. I estimate I travelled a mile on a road that isn’t straight, going 65 mph or thereabouts, out cold.

There’s a short span of I-80 near the Mogul exit where the space between the eastbound and westbound lanes transforms from utterly impassable to a swayback ditch. According to the only witness who spoke to me moments after my vehicle came to rest, I tipped into the ditch, wobbled once or twice across the traverse, then continued across two westbound lanes stocked with 5:00 PM traffic on a Friday.

The bumper on the Highlander kissed the loose earth alongside a truck parking area so gently it didn’t even jar my lifeless body forward, much less engage the airbag. I was still in dreamland when a passerby rapped on my window to ask if I were all right. That’s when I heard about my final seconds at the helm of a pilotless ship. Then the cops and ambulance showed up, and my resuscitating angel disappeared.

Imagine if this had just happened to you. As long as we’re imaging things, imagine you are Philosophy major from Yale, given to inspecting the phenomenal world for cracks that might reveal the truth beneath the veneer. It’s not enough to wonder what the hell just happened; it’s obligatory to divine what it must mean.

To avoid any possible misunderstanding: I should have been killed six ways to Sunday, and who knows how many souls I might have taken with me. I should not be here. I should have died, but instead however many angels it takes to lift an SUV intervened. Some power I had spent my whole life studying stepped into our dimension and saved my mortal incarnation.

Why would they do that? What purpose might I have that would be worth piercing the veil between eternity and tick-tock time? My ski career had gone off the rails seven years before. An entire nest egg was turned into an omelet so we could maintain a tolerable lifestyle, as I remained stubbornly unemployed. If destiny were calling, could it please speak a little louder?

Hogen and Powers are the authors of record, but every word was lifted from the ether. 

Three years later, the angels came back. A friend encouraged “Guru” Dave Powers and I to co-author a book about the metaphysics of skiing. So the Goo and I spit-balled, mind-melded and condensed our thoughts into twenty-two topics. For each, the pattern was the same: Dave would envision the global concept and most of the supporting detail that I would fashion into a narrative. Dave would then take the reader down a run at Snowbird that shed light on the subject at hand. I would wrap it all in a cohesive pearl of enduring wisdom.

When I sat down to write the first chapter, I was ready and my angels knew it. I had barely completed the first paragraph when I became engulfed in a column of energy. I had written hundreds of thousands of words to get to this moment and none of them had hit this switch. The energy field felt more than just alive; it felt conscious.

My heart started to pound audibly which is perhaps why the first words I heard were, “It’s okay. You were chosen because you could do this. You were the one who showed up. You’re safe. But we really need you to keep typing, so when you feel you can continue…”

The column of light allowed me to string thoughts into braids of metaphors, entwining the sensuality of language with the intellect’s curiosity and spirit’s empowering sense of purpose. To sustain such three-dimensional writing would normally be impossible; to even aim at the target suggests bottomless vanity more than talent.

Yet nothing I’ve ever penned was more egoless than Snowbird Secrets. In a sense, I didn’t write any of it, for the ideas were channeled by Guru Dave and the execution was directed by an animated energy field who chose me as a conduit.

I was thinking of appending a chapter of Snowbird Secrets here, but a hard copy is only $19.95 on Amazon and a digital version is a pittance at $2.99. Before you pop over to Amazon, permit me to share a few nuggets I gleaned from conversations with angels.

Don’t underestimate the value of showing up. In this context, “showing up” includes doing the work you don’t foresee the use for. Do it anyway. Learn constantly, because you don’t know what you’re training for.

Don’t be afraid. It’s one of the first things they said because they didn’t want me to freak out, which must be a pretty common reaction. Angels live outside of time’s boundaries, so they’ve already seen everything you’re so worried about.

There’s energy all around us all the time and where it intersects with our paltry skills it’s called “creativity.” Those lucky enough to be called gifted should remember that gifts are things bestowed.

The connection between the eternal and the temporal is the moment. This isn’t an aphorism of my angels but my synthesis of how we were able to communicate. The crack through which we can see eternity is the narrowest slice of now.

We don’t yet have all the words we need. We don’t have a word or even a tidy expression for someone who should be dead but isn’t. We often can’t apply a name to the purpose in our lives or our inability to recognize our angels even though they surround us.

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