Sunday, February 25, 2018

falling for gold

Watching the Winter Olympics reminded me that even the best of us fall and what you do when you fall is you get up as quickly as possible and keep going. But sometimes when I fall I like to just lie there. Especially when I fall in snow. There’s a big snowbank in the yard where the guy who plows my drive pushes all the snow and it piles up into a hill. Sometimes I stand in front of the hill, facing away from it, and I hold my arms out to the side and fall back. That’s a fun thing to do. I’m not sure why, but every time it makes me laugh, and I’m not sure if I’m laughing at the split second of free-fall or laughing upon impact.

We are now well into the beginning of the end of winter, which is like sliding downhill with moguls, or something like that, not at all like the luge—it does not go that quick. Rather slow. So maybe like curling—a lot of strategy and sweeping and watching and onlookers wondering, uh, what is going on and when does it end—? But if you know the game, know how it’s played, know its intricacies, it’s fascinating to watch. Every day the snow, the air, the temperature is different. One day it is clear and sunny, near 50 degrees, the snow puckers and shrinks; the next morning it is below zero again and the sky is brittle and the snow is sturdy and hard, a smooth, everlasting, impenetrable sheet; some days the clouds roil and build and bring fresh snow; and, one day, it was more like a rain of some sort with a thin layer of ice forming across the top of the snow. Under the shelter of trees, though, there was no icy crust and the fresh rain-snow was oddly soft and dry. Or so it seemed.

A piece of icy snow-rain crust.

Days in the 20s and 30s with some sun are perfect. The sun is now traveling high enough in the sky to share its warmth and the snow gleams and smiles, feeling secure, I’m sure, in its invincibility, its coverage complete and deep, but from it little creatures emerge, leaving zipper tracks, and snow and ice slides off the roof and eaves drip.

The snow-packed trail to and along the river hardens a bit more each day, and it’s along this trail that I fall. It’s the day of the snow-rain that was so light that I saw nothing in the air. But I could hear it as it pinged off the metal roof, and I could see it as it slid down the roof. I could see it clinging to thin branches, creating an icy sheath, and I could feel it and hear it cracking underfoot. Small, thin planes of ice also slid off the roof, hit the snowbank below, broke into tiny shards that went skittering off in all directions.

A thin plane of ice before the fall.

Walking along the river is when I noticed that the snow under the trees did not have this icy crust but was this fresh soft dry stuff that was not powdery but like wet powder—well, I’ve never walked through this kind of snow before. When it’s cold and snowing, snow is dry, light, powdery; when it is warm and snowing, snow is wet, heavy, slushy. Basically. But this snow was heavy and powdery, or maybe light and slushy, a contradiction, anyway, and I kept falling in it. I don’t really know why.

I had on my snowshoes, and every time I fell getting up was a bit of a trick, as it often is in snowshoes because you’ve got to account for those big paddles on the end of your legs, but this day it felt especially tricky. And the falls occurred when, for the most part, I wasn’t doing anything. At one point I had gotten off the trail, walked a few steps over to the prickly cucumber vine laced across a small bush to get a closer look, and while taking a photo I just fell over. Plop. The soft part of the snow was about a foot deep—likely the snow was deeper but you don’t sink all the way down—and it was like tipping over into a big pillow. It was, in a way, extremely pleasant. But my legs were all bent with the snowshoes pinned under me and I had the camera in one hand, and, after pausing a moment for the pleasure of just lying there, it took a bit to maneuver all the parts, to get up, to get out of there.

Back on the trail, heading home, I heard the roar of the crowd. Apparently my combined score of 221.3 was good enough for gold.

In the Falling While Snapping a Picture of Prickly Cucumber Vine event, an athlete is scored not only on execution but on impression.

The crowd rose to its feet and roared.

This morning there is more fresh snow. We’ve actually had quite a bit of snow this week of one kind or another. Today looks to be a springlike snow, wet and heavy, a little sassy, a bit arrogant. It is not cold out there, but windy, the wind causing the snow to rise up in sweeping curls, twirls and twists, flips and twizzles, jumps and throws. Tomorrow, they say, look for sunshine, light winds, warmer temps.

But this is today.