Now that I have a dog again, I try to go cross-country skiing as much as possible, so he can romp through the snow as I ski the groomed trails in the woods around my neighborhood.
It has become our after-school ritual; because Corely (a nickname for his real name, Corleone, named after the infamous Godfather from John’s favorite story), looks forward to it so much, I feel terrible if I cannot take him. As a result, I end up skiing in some pretty awful conditions and on some pretty slushy or icy trails.
His enthusiasm has made me more resilient and less choosy when it comes to conditions these days. With so much heavy snow this winter, I have had to bushwhack my way through some snow-laden nether regions where I often stop to release the trees from their heavy snow bondage. As I hit the trees with my poles, I often think of Robert Frost and his poem “Birches,” as many of the arched trees are birch trees. I am not sure I am supposed to be inflicting myself on the natural world in this way, but the trees seem so happy when I am able to knock some of the heaviest snow off the branches and they spring up with life, soaring heavenward.
Corley and my neighbors have also inspired me to try skiing at night this year. Joyce and Bruce, also avid skiers, walk their two dogs nightly, using headlamps to guide them around the neighborhood. Because John gets home after dark in the winter, night skiing would enable him to get some trail time in during the week, so I went out and bought headlamps. And we walk the dog every night anyway, so why not ski with him instead?
The only glitch came when my youngest daughter was immediately worried about the coyotes Corley might run into in the woods at night. I hesitated but had already bought the gear, and knew Corely would love this version of a nighttime walk. So I decided to give it a try, with leash in hand, just in case.
To cross-country ski during the day is beautiful and soul-enriching every time I go, but to do it at night is truly magical, almost like being in the presence of the northern lights every time. The headlamps make the snow glisten as they light our way, and to my surprise and delight, the dog stays in the lighted path; he has no interest in romping anywhere away from us. I love the tranquility; the winter sky is bright and clear; we can see myriads of stars when we get to the clearings.
The woods, as the other Frost poem declares, are truly “lovely, dark and deep” and I am so warm despite my frosty breath. On moonlit nights, we almost don’t need the headlamps, but I am so happy we have them and this beautiful winter experience.