By Marlene Farrell
This is it. I have to change, whether I want to or not. I’m a runner first and foremost so I would love to run year round, training hard through the dark months. I grew up in the East where the winters were cold but not so snowy. Running was a reliable mode of moving, easier actually in the winter than the oppressive humidity of August.
So is that why the change disturbs me — my non-skiing upbringing? I feel unlike my giddy friends who go to Stevens Pass on opening day and lust over weather reports that promise snow. And I am a skier, Nordic anyway, and I get out and ski six days a week once the heart of the season is on. And I coach, sharing my “love” of skiing with children. Together, while we’re out, learning to skate ski or exploring the powder in the woods, I love it as much as they do.
But I’m not there yet. This transformation is painful, like that endured by insects who have their insides dissolve so they can become something so different that it changes their very way of moving through the world, seeing the world and even their reason for existence. Insect metamorphosis happens, however, in the warmer months, while winter finds most insects entering diapause, a long nap under a blanket of snow.
But I don’t want to nap! That blanket of snow just robs me of running trails for months to come. It feels like the trails are a map of my heart. I can see inside it only by following the trails wherever they lead.
I don’t shed a skin. Rather, I have to encumber myself with more and more gear. Sure, it’s lightweight, synthetic, wicking miracle wear. But with a headlamp that slips down my forehead, and gloves that glisten with the snot of my runny nose, and zippers that need to go up and down to thermoregulate, I am distracted from my reverie. And then to strap on skis and poles, I’m bigger, not slipping through the sleeping world like a whisper but bustling through, more machine-like, albeit human-powered.
Please excuse my complaints because I do honestly need to mourn the loss of something good so that my mind can transform too, to begin the winter adventure that awaits. Skiing must cajole me and take me by the hand, just as I do with my kids. I don’t give them a choice. They get home from school and their long johns and skis are waiting for them. The same applies to me. I do give in, and I am grateful, for the change. I am grateful for the hardness of skiing, with its nuances that elude me still, 15 years later. For the way of seeing this world as I glide by, yes, bigger than the lonely runner, but sometimes quicker and smoother and perhaps quieter without the drumming of footfalls.
If it weren’t for skiing, I’d miss the sunrise spreading its rays over diamond sprinkled snowfields, the dance of moonlight through the pines along the ski trails, and many other understated splendors of winter.
My metamorphosis has begun.
Marlene Farrell is a Leavenworth writer and long-distance runner who has qualified twice for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. She also helps coach the Peshastin-Dryden Striders kids running club.