Originally published in the Manchester Journal on March 15, 2018.
The darkness is just beginning to dissipate as I clip into my skis and slowly begin to slog up the hill. There’s a spring-like warmth in the air, though literal feet of snow have fallen in the last few hours and more is to come.
Didn’t it feel like June just the other day?
It’s early March, the skies remind us, and the month has every intention of living up to its “in like a lion” maxim. I’m grateful for the snow at least, and even more grateful that it has fallen mid-week — guaranteeing that I’ll be able to savor each moment of the early-morning solitude I seek. The powder is deep, and it looks like I’m the first to step foot (or ski) onto the trail since the snowfall.
Movement is slow, but almost better for it. It’s not speed, or distance, or even elevation that I’m chasing today, after all, but a more spiritual satisfaction. Though at times it feels as though I’m barely progressing, the conditions do force me to breathe — and think — more deeply. A golden glow has begun to reach along the skyline, and flecks of light peek between the trees as my headlamp focuses a spotlight on the path ahead. It’s almost sunrise, which is my only destination this morning.
Otherwise, my path is intuitive and at times aimless. There’s an inexplicable thrill in losing direction, and just “going with the flow.” That’s easier said than done, however, if you’re an overachiever like me. Often, I find myself so inextricably lost in the minutiae of life that any larger meaning becomes lost in the haze. Practicality, planning, and punctuality consume me in the endless pursuit of accolades and achievements — though I’m not quite sure why I’m chasing those things in the first place. In slowing down, maybe I’ll stumble upon some answers.
And stumbling I am.
Clumps of snow catch under my skis, and I fall towards reality with a thud as the powder billows around me. Luckily the landing is a soft one, though I stop to brush myself off before continuing onward. Falling down is just a part of the process, right? Being in the backcountry doesn’t help — it’s hard to know what rocks or roots await underneath the blanket of snow, and my poles punch down into what feels like air. It’s harder than I anticipated, though maybe that shouldn’t surprise me so much by now.
The sun is almost up as I reach a clearing and lean onto the nearest tree, staring out into the endless sky. In the stillness I notice the way that the colors change, how slowly but surely the sun continues upwards — as if it’s floating rather than chasing. I take a deep breath and remind myself to remember that motion in the day ahead, whatever chaos or uncertainty it may contain. After another moment, I push myself forward once again.
Skiing through the trees I revel in the sunlight, and try to remember to do this more often: go slowly, be still, and savor each moment.