From the Braver Institute
I am not going through some kind of a mid-life crisis, but I have come to the conclusion that I will never live long enough to do everything that I would like to do, so I have made a somewhat conscious decision to start doing some of the things that I have been putting off.
On my birthday I went crosscountry skiing for the first time in my life. For some reason I had never bothered to try it.
That’s not totally true. When I was a teen my friend Pete had a pair of cross-country skis and I tried them out. I decided immediately that they were stupid. It seemed that it took a whole lot of arm flailing and leg kicking for a minimal amount of forward motion. On top of that they were useless in the woods. Maneuvering through trees was difficult at best and climbing over brush piles was impossible.
Give me my snowshoes.
Anyway, a couple of years ago I started to rethink the stupidity of cross-country skiing and I bought a used pair of skis and boots. I was completely unaware that crosscountry skis had changed over the years, and my “new” pair were really obsolete. The boots and bindings of modern cross-country skis were completely different than the old-school three pin type. Knowing that I would look totally out of style out there in the woods, I kept putting off skiing until my birthday last month.
My kid sister, Badger Annie, was going to be home for Christmas and had asked if she should bring her skis up with her. I thought it might be a good idea to finally start skiing, so I told her that she should.
There is a short cross-country ski trail near my mom’s house, and we decided to give it a try. The Badger hadn’t skied in years and was a bit more self-conscious than I, and wanted to have a “Plan B” if there were too many people at the trail. We pulled up to the trailhead and found only one other car there. There was no need to come up with Plan B.
We put our skis on and hit the trail. I knew that there would be plenty of hills in the area, and I prepared myself mentally for wiping out on every one of them. Much to my surprise I didn’t wipe out at all. I may have been a bit rigid in appearance going down the hills, but I didn’t crash, even on the hill I named “The Ultimate Drop of Death.” The Badger, on the other hand, managed to do a faceplant on the way down that one.
Further down the trail I mentioned that skiing was going a lot better than I had envisioned, and that I was really enjoying the excursion. Saying that, I apparently jinxed myself. At that very moment, on perhaps the flattest part of the trail, I started to lose my balance and almost fell over.
All-in-all the ski excursion was a success and I was determined to try it again.
The next day I decided to ski at a popular park. Since I was now an expert (actually the trail we skied the day before was considered an intermediate trail, so I guess that makes me an intermediate) I was not afraid to show off my skiing skills to the public at large. The Badger, still sore from her crash the day before, declined to join me.
The trail at Presque Isle Park was generally flatter than the trail I skied the day before, although there is a substantially longer and steeper hill than any I had conquered previously. I reassured my mom that I would not attempt that hill, and I would walk down it. She didn’t want to come and rescue me again.
There were plenty of people at the park, as I expected. I struck out on the trail with all of the grace and speed of a lifelong skier. I was flying over the snow.
Behind me I could hear the voices of two women talking. I could tell they were getting closer and closer with each passing second. I thought that they must really be skiing at a good clip to be gaining on me so quickly. I was getting tired, but I didn’t dare slow down or stop—I put forth my best effort to stay in the lead. As I was furiously flailing my arms and making my skis slip back and forth in the snow, the women walked up alongside of me, said hello, and then continued past me. They weren’t even skiing! I had only thought I was going fast because I had nothing to compare my speed to. I was moving at less than the casual pace of a stroll. My earlier thoughts on lots of effort for minimal motion were still true, and I was proving it.
When I finally arrived at the aforementioned hill I decided that I now had to ski down the hill to make up for my pathetic performance on level ground. I had made it down several shorter hills, and I determined that all I needed to do was repeat what I had already done for a longer time.
Down the hill I went. I started to pick up too much speed, so I pointed the tips of my skis toward each other and snowplowed my way down the hill. Halfway down I realized I had made a mistake, and even with the snowplowing I was going too fast. But I couldn’t stop. I didn’t know how.
Even though I wasn’t screaming audibly, I am sure that my thoughts of screaming were loud enough for the people I passed on my way down to hear.
Somehow I managed to keep it together all the way to the bottom. I was going to make it! I was going to live! This has been a lot of fun!
Seconds later, of course, I crashed where the hill flattened out.
I have no idea why I had been putting off such a joyous activity for such a long time.
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Waye Braver can be contacted on Facebook or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.