Late winter / early spring skiing: animal tracks and animated moods

The snow was sticky today.

It was a balmy -1C when my son and I finally got back out to the ski hill, with a wind chill of -5. Perfect blue sky with the half-moon faintly hanging above. Glorious. There were only four other kids skiing and snowboarding, so we essentially had the slopes to ourselves. I think I would have enjoyed myself more with colder temperatures, though, as crazy as that sounds after our long and bitter winter.

You see, sticky snow is a hazard. It catches up the skis, snagging them in unexpected places and tripping me up when I least expected it. I nearly wiped out (peed myself a little in the process, too) a couple of times, just managing to save myself from what would have been violent tumbles. I’ve never yet broken an arm or a leg but I’m pretty certain that today would have been the day — glad to have dodged that bullet! Although I should have remembered to wear the bladder protection padding . . .

But it was still gorgeous up on that hill, perfect views all around and the added delight of more animal tracks! I saw squirrel, rabbit, and I later learned, fox and lynx.

Jack had a great time also, taking enormous pleasure in following me directly down three or four runs and irritating the heck out of me. I told him, “It’s not that I don’t trust YOU, it’s that if I get caught up and fall you’ll end up running me over and maybe getting hurt yourself!” Silly boy.

Jack had a great time also, taking enormous pleasure in following me directly down three or four runs and irritating the heck out of me. I told him, “It’s not that I don’t trust YOU, it’s that if I get caught up and fall you’ll end up running me over and maybe getting hurt yourself!” Silly boy.

And of course, shortly after getting home, I had a lovely nap. Bridget went to a birthday party later on, her dad taking her so I could sleep, and had some fun bowling, and then Jack went out again to the local Twoonie Skate so he could practice his hard-stops, cross-overs, and spins.

The other day, one of my colleagues commented to me, approvingly and with some surprise, how active I’ve become with my kids. I said, I’ve been trying, for sure. It’s not only good for them (and I do feel like I’ve been playing a bit of catch-up to compensate for the years where we didn’t do much of anything — that refrain “The years before five last the rest of their lives” repeating through my head), but it’s good for me, too. I’m still twenty pounds over the limit of my dress pants’ waistband, and we’re not active every day, but it’s been on a steady increase. And I think we’re seeing benefits in both my son’s and my mental health as well — he’s experienced far less incidents of anxiety, or been better able to cope. I still take my pills, of course (mental note: replenish stock this week), but it’s absolutely true that getting out into the fresh air and sunshine fires bullets at my depression when it rises.

So why was it that I kept yawning on the way up the ski lift?

In which I try my first ski race and wax poetical about the coming change of season . . . with photos!

I spent my Sunday at the ski hill. My head is a bit sore, now, and my congestion continues, but the endorphins were lovely, the sun was shining (I think I might have a slight sunburn on my face!), the snow glittered as though it were covered in layers of tiny diamonds, or perhaps stardust . . .

  And I was in a ski race!

I came in dead last, of course. My first run down the hill was too funny: I lost a ski at the third pole! By the time that I hopped back up to it, figured out that the binding was still locked in position, and put it back on, my time was pretty much done. Two minutes and three seconds to cross the finish line (screaming).

That figure at the top of the hill? With the white dot that’s the helmet? That’s me! On my second run . . . still swearing a blue streak and screaming all the way down.

Well, scream-laughing, anyway. Had a good time. Of course, it was more challenging than I realized it would be, but I’d kind of expected that. I’d never been in a ski race before! The turns weren’t the hard part — I enjoy quick turns on a ski hill (although today my right hip was protesting a little). It’s that there were ruts in the snow around each pole, curving dents worn into the snow by the skis of aaaaallll the other skiers who had taken their turns before me. And like a car on a race track, when you’re moving and you hit that curve, it spits you out the other side at an even faster speed than before. Wasn’t expecting that, at all! My son raced, too, and he was the only boy in his age category, so he was his own competition. That’s not a bad thing, the first time out. He had a great time also. And we’re at this neat point where we can hold hands and propel each other forward down a trail that’s only slightly inclined, which was a nice way to end off my afternoon. In addition to enjoying the runs, I saw more animal tracks and took some pics. I really want to go snowshoeing with my proper camera to get some deep-trail photos, as well. But these I took with my iPhone:

I remember one day (last weekend?) I tried taking pictures of the tracks I saw along the T-bar lift, and I dropped my phone! A kind snowboarding instructor picked it up for me on his way up the hill, just a few minutes later. If you want to identify any of these in the comments, please do! I think that the top two are bunny tracks, and the bottom three are chipmunk because I don’t see the line of a tail, but I’m probably wrong.

There was also a very different feeling to the hill today. Maybe it’s just my own overly imaginative filter — I do this when I cross the border, when I go to a different part of the province, or even in stores — but some places have energy to me. Sometimes it’s not a good vibe, and I just feel uncomfortable. When I’m travelling, it’s as though the air just suddenly changes its texture. That happened when I went to New York State to visit my friend Tara: as soon as I’d cross the border, it felt as though my inner antenna or what-have-you was picking up on signals that I wasn’t familiar with. Just a different vibration. So anyway, I felt that change on the hill, and I realized it on one of my last trips up the lift. Maybe it was the presence of so many people having a good time, or my own endorphins and happy mood, but it seemed to me that there was something in the energy of the trees and the snow and the rocky ground underneath. Some might call it the forest stirring, waking up from its long sleep. I don’t know if it was exactly that, because I’ve seen / felt that, too, and it’s too early yet for that sensation. But it definitely wasn’t asleep, if you know what I mean. In the depths of winter, the wilderness of Northeastern Ontario is in a waiting period. It is numb, and unconscious, barely breathing with the freezing temperatures that tighten the soil and still the waters. In the spring, movement comes quickly, suddenly, and it’s dirty and messy, slushy and mucky, a very wet business of coming awake and brushing away the melting snow. This is that period in between. Spring is still just a dream for those trees and rocks and critters, even the ones who are venturing forth to replenish their cupboards. But it’s that kind of dream where you know you’re on the verge of opening your eyes to see whether it’s real. They’re listening for the drip drip drip of icicles turning into rivulets, the sliding slosh of branches losing their heaps of white in great soft clumps, the soft gurgle of brooks and streams and rivers breaking free from their covers of ice. The Northeastern boreal forest is listening for the real turn of the season and the return of the warmth, which could still be weeks away.

Can you spot the bird’s nest?

Yeah, made me all poetic-y. If I’d had my tape recorder, I would have popped it out and recorded my thoughts on the spot. Well, after getting off the tow, anyway. Thought about doing it with my phone but I wanted to preserve the battery . . .

So that was my day. It was a good one, for fun and exercise, but nothing else productive accomplished except the cleaning of Elizabeth’s tank. Her living space is substantially cleaner than ours, funnily enough, but then again, it’s also a fraction of the size of the human home and she doesn’t have papers, books, assorted craft detritus, and other clutter I shall refrain from naming here but that you know has to be bad because otherwise I would identify it. My house . . . oh, my house. I will clean you thoroughly on March break! I will not sleep the break away!

Might ski it, though. And I’m going to look again (hoping for end-of-season sales!) for my own cross-country skis and snowshoes, so I can go on the trails with the pooch and my camera without Skittles getting all barky like she normally does if she has to wait for me to get the rental equipment from inside the Complex. Time is running out to get the most out of the trails, and it’s good right now with the retreat of the freezing Arctic cold — apparently the bunnies are known for hiding close to the paths for snowshoers. One skier told me she’d almost stepped on one of them! Mind you, if I take Skittles with me, the critters will scatter . . . Like to try, though. Or do some late-night trail-walking, so I can try to get good pictures of the clear starlit sky. Again, it’s a good time for it. Once that spring weather starts in earnest, the trails will quickly become impassable until at least late June. The melting snow will cause thick, muddy morasses and running streams will cut new paths across them in the low places. Plus the return of the mosquitoes and black flies, horseflies and deer flies, and all those assorted lovelies. (shudder) No, now is a good time to get the most out of winter.

I’d like to say, “see you on the hill!” but tomorrow is Monday. Oh, dear, and I haven’t started my marking yet. My head still hurts. Why I even bother trying to bring work home with me on weekends . . .

How about now? Bird’s nest at 12 o’clock!