Cross country skiing with Mitch Mode,
Comes a time of change. Comes a time when the predictable becomes uncertain, when solid ground begins to quake. Comes a time when normal becomes a memory; when what we take for granted is upset. Topsy; turvy.
Comes a time of change. Comes March.
Comes March when winter fades like smoke and memory, when spring comes knocking, gentle taps at first, then fervent. March is a time of seduction; sweet bird call, soft caress of warming breeze, rich, fecund scent of earth. We are part of this in late season skiing. It becomes the world in which we ski and live. It is our landscape and our love.
Then, catastrophe: Snow melt! Our leisurely glide of late ski season becomes frantic, frenzied; my God, the snow is going! We watch it all fade; the snow, the season, the time of our lives.
March is when it changes, change as irrefutable as day becoming blackness or night fading to dawning.
Comes March; comes a time of change.
March upsets us with loss of season at the same time it tempts us with newness of spring. In March, we measure each day for what it is; temporary and fleeting and, once gone, never to return. March is many things, but among them a life lesson in transition and change and passing.
We say, in life, “Live each day to the fullest; do not assume there will be another.” So, in March, should we say the same of each day on skis. It can go overnight, can snow, can vestiges of winter. Overnight it can disappear, can our skiing. We wake to snowmelt dripping off the eves and see the brown dirt and say to ourselves, about skiing,
“Damn! It’s over.”
And then: “Wish I’d gotten out one more time.”
The old question; Glass half full or half empty? In March, each day brings that; each day we answer. Until one day, the glass is broken to shards and holds no more. That is what skiing in March is all about.
We can, on days in March, find exhilaration unmatched. We can find that crazy-as-a-March-hare wildness and joy as our spirits rise with the temperatures. Late winter skiing, March skiing, can deliver up uncommon pleasure of warm days and good snow and skis that glide as if in a dream. March can be skate skiing in shirt sleeves; sun baking our faces. It can be classic skiing, when klister is dialed and grip and glide combine as a fantasy. It can be back country efforts in the deep snow; a picnic lunch in the warm sun as snow turns damp and chickadees trill.
In ski season, we are outdoors and in that find solace and comfort. We sometimes overlook that in our rush for faster times and extra distance. But a ski season need not be tallied on a clock or by number of kilometers skied; better to look elsewhere. Time in the woods, hours in fresh winter air, quiet time, time broken only by sound of ski on snow, that serves as a better measure. Ironic, of course, in that it cannot be measured, only acknowledged.
But important to recall that the days of change in November when some found dark times in the election many of my friends posted, “I walked in the woods to leave it all behind.” In ski season, we ski in the woods and leave it all behind. Now, as the season wanes and as changes come, we need acknowledge that and not ignore it.
The Ides of March can become the Highs of March. The passage of the month from lion to lamb is transition in its most basic form, but in between the two, the lion and the lamb, can come the middle ground when snow is lush and white even as temperatures rise. On those days, we can know skiing that is unique and unrivaled.
On skis we soar, like a bird in flight; effortless as if riding thermals of updraft, higher, higher. Then the next, crumbling like Icarus’ wings, falling to dirt and despair.
It can end overnight.
It may not come early, the ending, but it will come, most often, in March: the end of our days for one more season. And as with life itself, the end of days can bring the sadness and despair.
Living at latitudes of stark seasonal changes forces us to accept change; seasons come and go and each is unique and each is mourned in passing even as the new season is celebrated for its return. But when we add a life activity – skiing here – to the mix, the change becomes more than simple change, it becomes a matter of loss.
The ski season will most likely end this month. When it does, we will feel a palpable sense of loss. We fight the reality even as it smacks us in the face with rising temperatures and fading snow cover. But comes a day when we can deny it no longer; the season is over and done with and gone. In that, we feel loss.
I sometimes think that is one of the lessons in this sport; We must deal with loss. We may take from skiing the discipline to train and carry that to day-to-day life. We may bring the joy of skiing on weekends into the work week and be better for it. But come seasons end, we deal with loss and in that process learn, in an admittedly small way, to deal with loss in life. Which is inevitable and painful and very real.
Is it possible that in skiing we experiences loss and that experience can help us in our lives?
One wonders about skiing, this unique and wonderful sport that brings so much to our lives. In skiing, we find excitement and reward, confidence to deal with the elements of cold and snow. We find satisfaction in skiing distance in pushing our limits. We find comfort in slow and easy outings on winter days, when the sun holds light but no warmth; the warmth we feel comes from within. We find ourselves in the time in the woods and fields.
And then comes March. Comes March and change and, in the end, loss.
We deal with it. We pick ourselves up, look backward in introspection and longing; look to the future with anticipation, even if tinged with the sense of loss.
We are changed by skiing. We know that in our minds. Comes March, we know that in our hearts.