I..NEED..TO…GET…OUT. With cold but brightly sunny days, I seem to be saying this to myself more and more right now. You see, It is a common affliction when you live in a small mountain town. I call it Sun-Day. You know “Powder day” but ‘Sun”. This is particularly the case in a place like Mammoth Lakes where you have the ability to do just about any outdoor activity that you have ever had an interest in. You want to ice skate? No problem, head up to the lakes basin. You want to take the kids sledding and build “Buddy” the snowman? No problem, go anywhere in town. You want to embrace the wilds and back country ski? No problem, check out the Sherwins.
For me, over the past few years, I’ve started cross country skiing. I’ve always enjoyed the snow. Taking walks during those astonishingly beautiful dumps with big fluffy snowflakes; the kind that when they land on your tongue you can actually feel them melt or experiencing the transformations that occur when everything gets covered in a blanket of whiteness. Observing the tree branches drooping with the weight of the snow which finally succumbs to gravity, usually while you are standing underneath. To tell you the truth, I think that my favorite time to cross country ski is when it is snowing. But, today it is Sun-Day. It is still cold enough to keep the groomed ski tracks solid and fast but warm enough from the sun to keep your hands warm and the shadows spectacular. I decided last night that I was going to go for a ski today but one way or another, work keeps postponing my adventure. I…NEED…TO…GET…OUT!
Finally, I say “OK…I can take a break”. Luckily for me, I don’t even need to drive anywhere to be wrapped in nature. I am a manager at the Empeiria High Sierra Hotel and within a very short walk from the hotel is a trail heading into the cross county matrix of Shady Rest Park. Every winter, when there is enough snow, Mono County grooms miles and miles of cross country ski and snowmobiling trails. Usually they are two different trail systems and while the snowmobiles can’t use the cross country system, skiers can definitely head out to explore the snowmobile ones. I’m eager to focus on the trees swaying in the breeze, the snow under my foot and friendliness of strangers.
Learning how to do something new is always a journey and even though I’ve gotten out a bunch last winter, I’m rusty. With my experience of neurological challenges has come a change in my trust in my body’s ability to move the way that I want it to. Where at one time, I could just jump into some new physical activity and just pick it up right away (at least that is how my mind is remembering it) I have to remind myself that even though it was a bit easier than today, I still had to work at building the skill and strength to do that activity. Maybe, I just had more patience and less expectation of my physical performance…hmmm.
Here we go. I start out with energy, my ski catches an edge and I’m down. Why does the mind want to automatically go to ‘you aren’t capable of doing this’? NO…damn it! I can! I get back up and keep going. I am doing this! Well…..until the downhill slope with the curve. Why do they always have to put a curve midway or at the bottom of a hill? OK, the video said to put the weight over the outside foot to make a turn, let’s give it a shot. As I plunge off the nice groomer into the deep snow, I call BS.
Well, that didn’t work…and I’m down. At least the “I’m down” bit is becoming more of a chuckle. I get back up and get on my way. I’ll have to ask a friend of a friend who teaches cross country skiing for some pointers. The spirits above are frequently presenting me with opportunities to remember who and what I am outside of chronic illness. Today is the reminder that I am not less because I have a little extra challenge, I am more because of it and…the fact is that I actually do enjoy the process of growth and development both physically and mentally. This challenge is a good thing.
As I shush through the groomers practicing the dynamic movement of classic cross country skiing, I am finding that I don’t need to focus on what I am seeing around me; I am experiencing the shadows that dance through the beautifully contrasted forest bringing to my awareness the textures of the tree trunks against the diamond sparkles of the snow crystals . With the chubby squirrel running across my path, I am immersed in the natural world. I take a deep breath and keep on going. I…AM…OUT.