Even as I look forward to long summer days, picking berries, fishing, reading a book on my deck or dozing to the rush of Eagle River, I am, deep down, a winter gal.
Besides the basic comforts that winter offers (no bugs, no yard to upkeep, no need to paint my toes), I love how the world slows down beneath a coat of snow. Plus, I would much rather be cold, than hot.
April is a tough month for me, because I race against the receding snow to squeeze in some last minute winter sports.
Last weekend, we drove down to Alyeska so Kyra could finally take snowboarding lessons. As soon as she learned how to walk, every time we shopped at Target, she would pick out a skateboard and throw it into my cart. When we finally did get her a skateboard, at two and a half, she threw tricks that mom and dad never taught her and slept with it at night. When she was three, we enrolled her in ski lessons at Alyeska, since they don’t offer snowboarding lessons until a child turns five. Boy was she frustrated. She would stand on my board and pretend that it was hers.
We knew that snowboarding blood ran thick in Kyra. By the end of her one-hour lesson, she was edging, skating, even doing tail grabs with ease. I raced up and down the slope snapping photos of my daughter. My heart was laced both with pride and also anxiety that she was growing up so fast.
Through my lens, I captured the grace of her body gliding against the blinding snow. Her baby cheeks stretched by the wind and the most insane smile I’ve ever seen.
What took us off guard was Ethan’s determination to do everything that his sister could. He was too young for ski lessons so we hoped to entertain him with a sled or snow angels. But as soon as my friend lent me ski and snowboard gear for Kyra, Thomas and I knew Ethan would not be satisfied unless he was on the slopes too.
In our living room, the boy insisted on tromping around the house in snowboard or ski boots that were in Kyra’s size. He figured out the snowboard bindings and strapped himself in and then shifted his weight back and forth until he was sliding across our wood floor.
That day at Alyeska, he skied for the first time. With eyebrows furrowed, he would swipe away our hands trying to steady him and say, “No, I do myself.” Then, he would shoot straight down the slope with no expression on his face at all. During Kyra’s one-hour lesson, the boy zipped up the magic carpet and down the slope a zillion times without falling. We were shocked.
By the end of that hour, he was crouching down to increase his speed. I don’t remember the last time I had that kind of no fear, just-do-it attitude about life. It made me wonder when we all lose that courage and belief that we could do anything.
A few days later and before I returned the snowboard gear to my friend, I took pity on Ethan and let him try riding in our backyard. As I predicted, he had the same grouchy I- can-do-this attitude.
I would set him up at the top of a slope and hold him place with my left foot, while I manipulated the camera in my right hand. “Don’t step on me!” he would whine, trying to shove me away.
When I finally moved my foot, he would hammer his way down as fast as he could and throw in some jumps to increase his speed. He never cared where he headed. Sometimes, he even reverted (switched riding from fakie to forward while the board is still touching the ground) without any hesitation.
And if the board slowed to a stop, he would bend down and pick up some snow and throw it in the air. Or maybe, he’d throw in an abstract dance. The boy was completely absorbed in the present moment. He didn’t worry about where the board would take him next or the bad fall he had on Kyra’s skateboard months ago.
I am grateful that kids remind us that it is our fears and worries about the future or past that cause us to trip or stumble. The point of power is in the present moment. This is what I admired in Ethan, completely stoked, flying down the slope until he ran out of snow.