Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Perfect conditions

All it took was one good snowfall of six inches or so late last month followed by a cold snap to make perfect conditions for sledding. And as I had been telling the kids, perfect sledding conditions may come along only once per season – or maybe, such as with last winter, not at all during any given winter season – so they need to do all the sledding they can while the conditions last.

And they have been. They’ve sledded on the driveway, at NARA Park, at friends’ houses. They understand that sledding isn’t like swimming, for which you can pretty much count on two dozen or more days on which to do in any given summer. Sledding conditions are complicated, and when you get them, you have to grab them.

But last weekend I had to remind myself that the same is true of snowshoeing. Good conditions for snowshoeing come along only occasionally in any given winter, and you can’t make excuses for letting those opportunities slip by. So on Sunday, when my mother suggested that we take our snowshoes over to Towle Field for an hour, I knew what the right answer was.

But even as we started out on the trail, I felt preoccupied by all the other things on my To Do list for the afternoon. I had intended to dust and vacuum. I should prep some dinners for the upcoming weeknights. I should run loads of laundry. I should read the Sunday New York Times.

But at a certain point, I recognized that all of those “shoulds” were distracting me from this critical reality: I was out snowshoeing. And I love snowshoeing. Last winter I didn’t get out on my snowshoes at all, not one time, because we had only about two days with snow. By fall, I was already thinking about how much I hoped to fit in some snowshoeing this winter. And there we were Sunday, with a free afternoon and perfect conditions.

With that in mind, I tried my best to will away thoughts of housework and article deadlines and focus on the fact that after over a year of waiting, I was back out on snowshoes. I can’t explain even to myself why I enjoy this so much. There’s no thrill to snowshoeing, and there’s not really any particular challenge. It’s really just taking a walk in the snow.

But there’s something that feels so majestic about marching along on top of the snowdrifts, and something so therapeutic about forging through the slight resistance of the powder. It gives a feeling of both height and strength which no other sport gives me.

Not surprisingly, the dusting and laundry were still there when I got home after an hour of trekking through the snowy forests and fields.  None of that work had gone anywhere in my absence: like a faithful pet, it waited patiently at home. With darkness falling early, I still had hours left in the day for housework and deskwork. But I’d also managed to fit in one perfect hour of snowshoeing. So maybe I was right to just listen to my own advice for once. Because as I always tell the kids about sledding, those conditions are rare enough that you just can’t let them pass you by.

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