#NewThisDay Writing From My Photo Stream
I'm grateful for the cold, freezing the snow into the perfect surface. The dogs and I drive to the old hospital grounds where I know we'll be able to ski the meadows free of fallen branches and trees. A sharp wind blows the dog's ears clownishly as they run across the bright, frozen surface I ski across. Cloudless. Perfect temperature and my skis, untroubled by crust or branches, glide swiftly across the open meadow.
This morning I'm so happy to be cross country skiing – in March – and I'm suddenly so intensely grateful for my older brother who taught me how –what?, Forty years ago, is it? In my late teens, I was not athletic. He was. He and his girlfriend, M, who became my close friend. They took me for my first ski. What patience, what generosity they had. Both good skiers, downhill and cross country, they let me fall, get up, fall, get up, fall and fall, because that's how you learn to cross country ski.
We spent a lot of time skiing in Western Massachusetts where we went to college. Weekend afternoons we went into the woods. M was an athlete, and they would ask me along to ski, and I went cheerfully, never sure what I was getting myself into. I couldn't keep up. But I had to. They tried to keep us on intermediate trails, but they liked to bushwhack, cut their own. So, I had to learn quickly how to keep skiing when I was sure I couldn't make it another yard. They were cheerful about taking rest stops when they noticed me dragging, stopping to sip a can of ice cold ginger ale and eat a cookie and wait for me. Then, once I caught up, had my sips, we were quickly off again, I learned how to go up steep hills and safely down the winding ones through tree lined trails; how to break a fall without breaking a bone, how to cross a river without removing my skis or getting them wet. I learned how to keep the hate speech in my head and use friendly words when they asked how I was doing and I asked how much longer.
Slowly, my skills and stamina improved. But, as soon as I improved, they stretched me into longer and more challenging adventures. Sometimes we made ski trips to the White Mountains. I don't remember where we were, but I remember the trail. Following our trail map, they made a wrong turn, off the groomed intermediate onto an expert trail that had been closed. So, I wasn't having a very good time. Turning around, heading back the way we'd come wasn't an option. It was late afternoon, very near dusk. We had to keep going on the un-groomed trail to get out of the woods by nightfall. My energy was spent. We'd been mostly climbing, and now faced the descent on tree lined, steep and winding trails as the light left us. Then my brother broke a ski. So, his descent on one ski slowed him considerably, pretty much to my pace.
Finally, it was decided that M would ski ahead to the car and return to pick us up at the bottom. I was pretty sure, as she skied away, that I would never in a million years ski with the two of them again. I knew M would get to the car safely and return, she had speed and grit and a cheerful, practical spirit. And it was only a little after dark when we reached her in the car, which wasn't warm yet, but with the heat turned on. My body ached. I pretty much wanted to kill them both. But the car was warming. And my brother lit a fire in the condo while M heated the casserole we'd pre-made for dinner. And the couch was so comfortable in my dry clothes. My sense of humor warmed up. And we all started to laugh a lot. And I realized it wasn't true that I would never ski with them again. Because now I knew I could handle so much more discomfort and fear and frustration and exhaustion than I ever thought I could.
All photos and text copyright Kelly DuMar 2018