Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Week(s) (02/10/11)
TITLE: Of Sun and Snow and Silence
By LaRae Lacrosse
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Mid January. Winter is wearing on me. It’s been too long, with too much wind, too many freeze-thaw cycles that leave the roads and trails mushy and pock-marked and then slick and treacherous and not nearly enough snow for winter play - the best defense against the legendary Alaskan “Cabin Fever”. The truth is, most of us don’t spend enough time in our cabins for that term to really be accurate. Instead, we rush madly about on rutted, icy roads engaging in all the activities of 21st century America - shuttling kids to school and sporting events, grocery shopping, driving to jobs and meetings.
I frequently find myself in a line of automobiles, paused in a fog of exhaust, waiting for the green light of permission to continue. I wait impatiently, eyeing the dimming sky, thinking I should be home, starting dinner. A glance at the dashboard clock tells me it’s only three-thirty. Hmm. Judging from the harried and stressed faces of my road-mates, I would bet I am not the only mis-judger of time. We all think it’s later than it is. It happens every winter.
Mid February. Fresh snow! A free Friday afternoon. A spontaneous jaunt with my husband up the pass for a little cross-country skiing. The clouds are low and heavy and a light snow is falling, blurring the edges of trees and rocks and the buildings of the abandoned goldmine we make our way through. The trail is thickly blanketed and un-groomed. I enjoy the muffled whump of skis firmly planted to gain traction for an uphill trek and the soft schuss of a downhill glide. Pausing to catch my breath and survey our surroundings, I find myself enveloped in perfect silence- a silence I can feel and that stills and nourishes my soul. We are far from any traffic and electronics and, today, even the sounds of airplanes are absent, a gift from the low-hanging snow-clouds. I drink in the stillness, wrap it around my head, wonder if I can absorb it, save some for later, for I know what silence does for me, how it restores my soul, washes through my mind, carrying away the voices of anger and doubt and despair, a lifeline to my Savior. I never find enough and I am determined to fully immerse myself in it. A too-soon ending, but we make plans to return tomorrow.
Saturday dawns colder, but with shockingly blue skies and the brightness of a mid-winter sun and we head back up the mountain for another fix of snow and stillness and fresh air. The single-digit temperature and the stiffness of muscles and joints from yesterday’s excursion have us wondering if we will last as long, but we choose a lower, gentler trail and put our game faces on. The groomer has been through in anticipation of the weekend snow-players so we are able to stretch our strides, loosening knotted tendons and raising heart-rates until the cold is forgotten and the magic is remembered. The silence is less palpable today. An occasional small plane flies overhead and various automobiles ferry sledders and snowboarders up the hill. The cold and the grooming has made the snow a little crunchier and squeakier. We encounter other skiers, as well as snowshoers and walkers... and dogs. We are happy to share the trail. There is an air of jubilancy among us, as if the day were worthy of a party. I wonder if the enthusiasts of summer-sports share the same sense of camaraderie as those of us who brave the cold to play.
On the home-stretch to the end of the trail, I stop. I am struck by the warmth in the sun, the sun that is high overhead, bold and bright, melting snow from the trees in spite of the frigid temperature. I have a sudden understanding of why pagan peoples of northern lands worshipped it. After seemingly endless weeks of longing for light and heat, I am happy to stand in its glow, giving thanks for the return of hope and life...
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