my learning mountain

December 23, 2010

The whir of the ski lift. The chants of enraptured children. Skiers swishing effortlessly in a haze of white. Icicles clinging to my eyelashes.

I had never seen a place like this before. A place where “catching air” was more than a catchphrase. Where the brisk cold in your face is a welcome reward as you sweep down the hill.

I had never seen snow in these quantities. Growing up southern, snow days were a rare, but coveted, occurrence. While it only took a light layer of ice to bring everyone to a halt, even that did not happen often.

It’s a different life—up north.

In the north, anything under five inches of snow and ice is simply pushed to the side with nothing more than a resigned grunt and a zipped-up jacket. They live differently up there.

Here, in Oklahoma, we live with chilly, 20-degree days, and we still pray for spring.

Far from where I am right now.

My visibility went maybe five feet out, my toes feeling like frozen stubs, doing nothing for my balance, and my arms and chest ready to implode under three layers of long underwear.

After a three hour snowboarding lesson, I felt sufficiently confident in heading down the hill. However, latching on my board and exiting the ski lift were quite a different story.

It’s amazing more people don’t careen off these death traps, I thought as I eyed my dreaded exit, feeling my palms start to sweat. A friend tried to comfort me with the story of his old skiing buddy who would refuse to ski off the lift, forcing the attendant to stop all operations to allow her to vacate. I chuckled on the outside but pondered that option on the inside. If my fear of causing a scene were not so strong, I would have seriously considered that option.

However, being me, I opted for a slightly less humiliating dismount but far more comical, I’m sure, for the fortunate onlookers.

As I tumbled out and onto my knees, I thanked the winter gods for my hat and goggle cloaking devices. At least I was somewhat shielded from my embarrassment.

I stopped to buckle my other foot into place on my board, all the while wondering how others got over their harsh but supposedly liberating learning curve—liberating as I’ve been told by veteran riders; although, I find their encouragement sorely lacking, knowing that their days of snow-filled mouths and sore backsides were but a distant memory.

It’s funny though, how a moment of awkwardness can be so quickly forgotten when it is so briskly followed by minutes of sheer, dare I say it, liberation. Winter has never been an anticipated time of year for me. But with the rush of crisp air pulling at my eyelids, the sound of soft snow under foot, the embrace of towering evergreens and the smell of winter that only northerners can describe, I felt awakened in a sense previously unknown to me.

I couldn’t wait to do it again.

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