Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Forces of Nature

We just returned from our timeshare in Blanchard, Idaho.  It’s called Stoneridge and we go every year to take a time out to ski a few of the local areas and to shop in Spokane.  Noel’s been going to Stoneridge for over thirty years, and it’s my eleventh.  It’s something we look forward to every year after the rush of the holidays.

We had plans for the day.  Perfectly fine plans. We got a good night’s sleep and were up early.  I peeked out the window as soon as it was light and saw that the snow was perfect….cold, dry and powdery.  And the sky was clear and although the sun was not yet up, it promised to be a glorious blue-sky day. 
We were almost giggling with excitement because in our pockets were two newly-purchased day passes to ski Schweitzer Mountain at Sandpoint.  We love this ski area and its 110 runs and lightning fast chair lifts.  The runs are long and sweeping, the views of northern Idaho and Lake Pend Oreille make you glad to be alive, and we knew that for once, we wouldn’t have to deal with the fog that often obliterates the top of the mountain.  Oh, this day was going to be just fine.
We were well into a hearty breakfast designed to give us plenty of energy for the slopes and I was already thinking about what I would pack for lunch.   I was also mentally preparing myself because the temperature was forecasted to top out at 17 degrees in Sandpoint.  We could count on the top of the mountain being even colder.  I was mid-bite when Noel sat back in his chair and let out an “Oh No!” that likely our neighbors in the adjoining unit heard.  I waited, but he only stared at me.  Finally I said, “So…..?” 
“I forgot my ski clothes,” he said as he threw up his hands in disbelief. 
I think you can imagine the total silence that followed. 
When he again found his voice he said, “I can do it.  I’ll just layer a whole bunch of long underwear under my jeans and do the same under my down vest. 
“You don’t even have a coat?” I squeaked. 
“No.  I figured I’d just wear my vest over a sweater around town.   My ski clothes were in the other closet and I just got in a hurry when we left and….”  He didn’t need to finish.
“I can do this,” he said with finality.
“No you can’t,” I said with equal finality.  “It would work if it was in the 30’s.  Not today.”
We finished breakfast in silence as I thought about our options.  Although he didn’t say any more, I’m pretty sure Noel was thinking about how many layers he could conceivably put on.  I’m pretty sure that he was thinking about that because his jaw was firmly set and he had that “don’t mess with me or my plans” kind of look.
 But, I dove right in anyway.  “Why don’t we change things around a bit?  Let’s go cross-country skiing today and then see if we can borrow ski clothes from Neil.  We can ski Schweitzer tomorrow.”  Neil and his wife, Pat are our good friends who live in Sandpoint.  I could see that Noel was still working out the seven-layer underwear thing and he was about to reply when I cut him off.  “Just go take your shower and think about it.”  
Fortunately, he came out of the shower and said quietly, with more than a hint of defeat in his voice, “Okay, we can cross country today.”
I’ll admit it.  I was disappointed too.  It’s just that I was all set to go and the sun was shining so brightly and the snow was glistening and I really kind of felt “the need for speed.”  Switching gears is sometimes not so easy when we get so set on our plans.  I read one of those little wooden signs at the home decorating store the other day that said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”  I should have bought it and hung it around my neck for days like today. 
But then, almost magically I felt my body relax.  No need to hurry and pack so that we could get up the mountain and get the good out of our very expensive lift tickets.  I could take my time and pack some extra treats to take in the backpack: a little hot chocolate, a few granola bars, a roasted chicken sandwich.  I realized that today would be a perfect day to wear my ridiculous new hat from Eddie Bauer.  (I bought it because I think it’s good to look ridiculous every once in a while, especially when I get caught up in my own importance.) And the more I fiddled around getting ready, doing a bit of this and a bit of that, the more I surrendered to the day.  Sometimes, you just have to realize that the universe has other plans. 
I used to brute force things more that I do now.  I would push and resist and squirm, determined to have my own way…determined to shape things into my mold.  I would try to charge up the mountain, often slipping back two feet for every step forward.  I would have been the first one figuring out how to layer enough underwear to keep warm in frigid temperatures.  It really never worked.  I just ended up frustrated and sometimes even bitter because I expended all this energy and nothing seemed to work out exactly the way I wanted.  I don’t know when I really started to understand that it’s just best to let go.  Even now, my first impulse is often to resist.  But, if I just stop and listen it’s just so much easier.  And in the end, it turns out so much better.  We might as well realize that the forces that propel us down certain paths are so much greater than our resistance. 
So, off we went to Farragut State Park, knowing that we would work up a sweat as we glided around miles of delightfully groomed trails.  No need for multiple layers for a cross country ski.  First, the ridiculous Eddie Bauer hat came off and then the coat.  And Noel stayed warm wearing only one layer of long underwear and his vest. 

There’s something so romantic about cross country skiing.  We saw only a few other folks, so it was just Noel and me and lots of crunchy snow and the deep, blue sky.  And as ice crystals and bits of snow drifted down from the trees above, it glittered like fairy dust in the sun.  

As I glided along on my very old wooden skies I imagined that I had suddenly been transported to the endless winter in the Land of Narnia.   I love snow and the way it highlights the form of the trees and the fence posts and the boulders.  And I love the way it muffles the sounds so that those that you do hear become more important…like the way that a whisper catches your attention better than a shout. 

And the fairy dust worked its magic on both of us as we simply let go of our ideas and opinions and plans and let the day overtake us. 

I was a bit ahead of Noel and was thinking that this day was an excellent start to the New Year when I looked up to see a sign that said “Highpoint Trailhead.”  I started to laugh and said out loud to any angels or spirits that happened to be around, “Alright guys, I get it. This is what I was supposed to do today. You don’t need to hit me over the head.”  And you know, this day really was the high point of our trip. 
And after three hours of playing in the snow we got back into the warm truck and Noel called our friend Neil.  I thought it was quite imaginative when he said into the phone, “So Neil, I’m collecting donations of old ski clothes for the AANRP.  Have you ever heard of that organization?  No?  Well, it’s the Aging Attorneys Not Remembering their own Parkas.  Do you have an extra I could borrow?”  And that led to a delightful time at Neil and Pat’s in front of their fire with their dog Sadie at our feet as we recounted our day and then talked of plans for the New Year.
And yes, we did get our day on the slopes with a warm, borrowed parka and with another blue sky and crisp, dry, powdery snow.  On the lift, Noel dug his camera out of his pocket and turned it to the video feature.  “This is Noel with a ‘woman on the chair lift interview’ at Schweitzer Mountain.  Tell me, miss, what run are you planning on making next?”  I made some remark about trying the Quicksilver Trail or something, but I should have said, “I think this time I’ll ski down the mountain.  It’s much easier that way.”

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great time, Mom! I haven't been cross country skiing in a long, long time...I think since Explorer Scouts. Yikes! Time to change that, I suppose.