Dive Into It!
The window was closing; if I wanted to make an attempt, I couldn't afford to follow doctor's orders and delay a few more weeks to let my ribs heal more and to gain strength. (My doctors are hired consultants: I am the boss!) The winter had been bad -- no snow and warm, which could mean an early end to the ski season, particularly in Massachusetts. Nashoba Valley Ski Area is close by, has forgiving terrain, and has some of the best snowmaking and grooming in the East.
But even more of a draw for me, Nashoba has memories of a community I was fortunate enough to be a part of decades ago-- one of those timeless communities that never go away. Some of you reading this may also have been a part of that community, or more accurately, are still part of this community. Though its bonds may recede over time, like a rising tide they are there, ready to come back if we allow them, want them...need them. Memories, no matter how distant, have a way of forming bridges to make new ones.
The rib fracture accident was a lot of things, but the timing was a challenge. I had a plan to ski several times over the past six weeks as long as the stars would align to bless me with the requisite ideal conditions:
-- sunny day (visibility-- no flat light)
-- no wind (to knock me over)
-- good snow
-- close-to-perfect groomed snow
-- no bumps or terrain changes (to stifle what little balance I have)
-- no crowds (one seemingly innocuous bump could land me in hospital)
-- GREAT HELP; ideally 2 people (or more) to take care of my every need: to load the car, unload the car and carry all my gear to the lodge, make sure I get into the lodge sans incident (obstacles include stairs, uneven floors, people), help me put on my boots, and then get themselves ready to ski.
At this point, I'm warmed up (i.e., sweating) and I take a quick or not so quick breather to catch my breath, literally. I contemplate a few moments of gratitude that I am where I am...
On to the hard part:
1. Help me stand. The chairs and benches at ski lodges are often low. Even if they're not, I need help to stand, especially since at this point I'll have on my stiff, heavy ski boots that exacerbate the restriction of movement, coordination and flexibility in my legs. Once up, hold me steady as I put on my jacket, gloves and sunglasses. Hold up the mirror as I check my hair...(jk- just seeing if you were paying attention).
2. Walk me to my skis. That is, to my skis that you have so kindly carried to the safest ski rack after instantaneous visual analysis of the slope and surface characteristics of the many access points. I have my cane or walking poles, of course, but with ski boots snuffing out my last bit of balance and stability, I need my escort to hold my arm and guide me with strength and confidence (extra points for grace, elegance and panache). Slowly. Even a threshold of 1/8 of an inch can launch me back if I am not hyper-focused and we are not in perfect synch.
Stairs. Heavy doors. Two-way traffic. Out the door to an uneven, wooden surface, we navigate to the first bit of snow that slopes gradually (or not) up to ski racks. Once we make it to the racks, we're almost home.
3. Place the skis. Carefully place the skis under me as I hold onto the rack for dear life while trying to look calm and as if I could do this in my sleep. I click into my bindings. [Is there anything like that sound? Like clapping hands out of the huddle in football, it is a statement that says, "I AM READY -- LET'S DO THIS!"]. I strap into my poles and double-pole my way to the chairlift using only my arms. With no ability to lift and place my legs down with any sort of control, coordination, or accuracy, my skis must stay on the snow and pointed straight ahead as I will myself to the lift.
We load onto the chair with confident trepidation; I tuck both poles under my leg, sit back and dangle my legs, letting the chair transport me to another world that is at once familiar and unknown. Mindful reflections on the surrounding beauty, peace and tranquility are soon interrupted by invading questions as we near the summit. Could I still ski? Could I even get off the lift? What if I can't stand fast enough to get off the chair? I pushed these doubts to the back edge of my mind. It was time.
In an instant I knew. I had my answer. I knew when I was able to unload from the chair and glide down the offramp...YES! For the next three hours, time stood still as uncertainty morphed into magic on a small hill on a glorious day.
"Yes, there is a Nirvanah; it is leading your sheep to a green pasture, and in putting your child to sleep, and in writing the last line of your poem."
-- Kahlil Gibran
Thank you, Kim.