Stay with me now…
It’s cold outside while I write this. Apparently, it’s cold everywhere while I write this. When you read this, on Saturday or after, it’s not going to be as cold outside as it is today. Today at dawn it was 9 degrees here on the Blue Ridge.
But here’s the thing. I’m thinking about the cold because our son Sam and I are attending another Special Olympics ski meet next Monday and Tuesday in northern Virginia—time trials Monday; races Tuesday. Hoping forward, I’d love some of this cold air to hang around until then, to keep the snow harder, easier to turn on, faster.
But no. The current prediction for those two days is high 50s/low 60s and showers about 40% of the time.
Now, Sam has done well on wet, sloppy snow that clogs his skis on the slalom turns—three weeks ago in North Carolina, on that same sort of snow, he came away with a silver medal at his competition level.
But skiing in that kinda snow just ain’t any fun.
Now, maybe you are a reader who doesn’t care a fig about skiing, but hang on a moment—I’m getting to something.
At many times in my past life, particularly before our children were in their teens and needed me to ski with them as they improved, I skied by myself very aggressively, although I never formally raced.
Here’s the “something” I am getting to. Many of you readers—skiers or not--you may have had similar pleasures, when you were young. But now you have put them aside, and they have gathered dust—as my skis did—in the barn. There was never quite enough time to drive to the mountain. There was never quite enough money to afford the expense.
Here’s what I conjure for you. I conjure that you stop. I conjure that you come with me on a trip to the mountain—to your mountain—wherever that is, right now. Reach out—let’s do it—right now, let’s reach out for muscle memory.
I snapped my ski boots shut, stamped into my bindings, and poled/skated my way to the lift at the bottom of the mountain. The chair swung round—I was a solo this time—and I sat. I pulled down the bar, settled my skis on the footrest, and looked around. The sky was clear in northern Maine, and the trees all around were rimed thick with ice. It was cold, cold, cold—ten degrees and a twenty mile NW wind, making it seem as though it was about fifteen below. I pulled my balaclava up over my nose and cheekbones, glad I had my ear warmer snug round my head under my woolen watch cap. Loved my minus-twenty parka and mittens.
I reached the top and dismounted smoothly, slowed to a stop. There was an operator inside the upper hut, secured away, maybe with a kerosene heater. His eyes and mine met for a second. Yes, I tried to signal to him, I’m good for this. Hope you are, he seemed to answer, and his eyes shifted away.
I studied the trail map—black-diamond trail or a more moderate blue? I’ll return for that black diamond, I thought, but I need the slower beginning, the reaching for muscle memory, the remembering that my next big birthday is seventy now and no longer thirty-five. And the blue trail winds along the ridge to the north, seems to dip and then flatten, dip and then flatten—that would be good.
I picked blue. I started down. It was a long, broad run, a good one to wake up upon. Muscle memory is a wonderful thing: if you had it once, you’ll have it now.
Halfway down that first tentative run all diffidence blew away. Deliberately, I set my downhill inside edge, forced my knees into the hill, bore forward with my downhill ankle…and steered a course closer to the fall-line, shot forward, nearly doubled my speed. From then on, with my mind plucked out, it was a dance, every muscle falling familiarly back into its racing place, attacking the hill.
I reached the bottom, winded and sore of thigh. But I had been relieved also of quotidian duty, for a moment, which had been plucked away from me, this once. I was relieved that I could still carve five or six perfect turns, each one increasing my speed by a percentage, each turn wrenching out a fear and leaving it behind me to shiver in the snow.
Do—you—the same, my friend.
What do you fear? What bears you down, as you age? What brings you despair? What leaps out at you when you encounter it and, this time, shrieks at you—‘NO YOU CANNOT!’
That is Satan.
He may have been the greatest of the angels, but he is FALLEN.
He wants to--
Don’t you let him. He is fallen. God is on YOUR side.
…and God wins.
Reader, I want to look behind me on our next ski run together and to see you, smiling as broad as heaven, carving your turns, transported, over your wall of limitations!
Ah! Won’t that be blessed!
Reader, go ski your own mountain. Attack your own hill.