Adjusting My Dreams

“Hey Martha, when you dip my rawhide pencil in your coffee, I really like it. I want you to keep doing that, OK?”

“OK Bear. It’s better than finding a dozen of these things under the couch because you took them — begged for them! — and didn’t chew them! Rawhide pencils don’t grow on trees.”

“Huh?”

“Never mind, sweet girl.”

“OH! You mean when I bury them!”

“Sigh.”


In the midst of all the weirdness here on Planet Weirdness, I have been rehabbing the shoulder and riding the bike-to-nowhere. The result? The shoulder is almost itself again, and I might be able to Langlauf assuming that the Old Farmer’s Almanac is wrong and our winter is NOT cold and dry but cold and snowy. The only problem right now is that I cannot get up from a fall as my shoulder isn’t 100% yet.

The other mechanical obstacle is that my skis need new bindings, and I’ll do that as soon as I am able to get up off the floor without the help of a chair or something.

I recently read Yellowstone’s Ski Pioneers: Peril and Heroism on the Winter Trail by Paul Schullery, a naturalist who worked in Yellowstone Park from 1972 to 2008. It’s a book about early skiing in Yellowstone Park, an activity no one did for fun, but was done to stop poaching. It’s not a great work of literature by any means, and the author loses the thread of his original “thesis,” but it’s a fascinating book. Back in the early days — the turn of the 20th century — and for quite a while into the 20th century — Yellowstone had been relatively undiscovered as a winter destination, but times have changed. At the end of the book he makes a quiet plea for people to leave The Park alone in winter.

“The ‘C-words,’ carrying capacity, caps, and ceilings, words that neither managers nor local commerce like to think about, are being heard more often all the time. Conservation groups are alarmed at the wildly accelerating (that is not too strong a term for what is happening) winter use of the park, travel in formerly isolated parts of the park has on park wild life, and managers are alarmed at the growing winter duties their budgets were not designed for.”

I’m completely happy to leave wild places to wild animals. Time was I believed I belonged with the wild animals in the wild places, but my beliefs have evolved. It was a long process that finally jelled when some local mule deer decided I was their friend. As I watched a doe approach me from a herd I’d been watching for some time, I saw that I couldn’t do her any good. I could only hurt her. Her natural curiosity, and the continuity of my (and Bear’s!) attention over weeks, had inspired her to act in a way that wasn’t in her self-interest. I called out to her, “I love you but I’m not your friend!” and waved my arms in the air, atypical behavior for me (in her perception, anyway). She stopped, pulled back her head and turned, bounding away. I never saw them again.

Nature isn’t a safari park.

The next time I saw her, she came all the way to the trees, not more than 20 feet from me 😦 . The other 8 members of this small herd, stayed back a bit. They had discovered good cover in the long line of tank cars and good browse in the hay fields beyond…


I had the “dream” of spending the time near/around my 70th birthday skiing in Yellowstone Park. That’s something I’ve dreamed of since I started x-country skiing. After reading this book, I abandoned that dream. I don’t think The Park needs another person on its fragile winter trails, another person on a “snow-coach,” or another person on a snow mobile. It occurred to me that snow is snow, mountains are mountains, and Bear and Teddy can’t ski.

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Skiing Cuyamaca Peak — Cougar Tracks

A year or so after the Good-X and I moved to San Diego (1984) we bought a 1972 VW camper van with a pop top. It was an awesome vehicle (until the block cracked) and we had a lot of fun with it. We also had moved our skis with us from Colorado. We had heard — though we wondered how it could be true — that the mountains east of San Diego sometimes got enough snow to X-country ski.

Sure enough.

The first time we went up there was with a couple with whom we were friends and from whom we rented an apartment. We went to the Laguna Mountains. Of course I had no idea at that time that the valley in which we skied that day (on 8 measly inches of snow!) would someday become as familiar to me as my hand, or that I would learn to regard those 6000 foot “hills” as mountains. I was, I admit it, a Colorado snob. Now I know.

From my high valley even the highest 14er rises only 7000 feet from the valley floor, no greater gain in elevation than the top of Cuyamaca Peak from San Diego. In fact, it’s just the same. I learned that a mountain is a mountain in relation to the land from which it rises, regardless of how a mountain is defined by geologists or geological surveys or Alpinists. I’m not a mountain snob any more. The Colorado fetish with 14ers now seems a little silly. If you want oxygen deprivation hold your breath. 😉 I’m joking. I know there’s a lot more to it than that.

Today when I look at Windy Mountain or Pintada from the Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge I see snowcapped hills that rise 5000 feet from where I stand. Mountains, but…

There are two ranges outside San Diego, separated by one of the innumerable fault lines that criss-cross California. Between the two is a narrow valley with a fissure and a spring that, in time, I got to know well. The ranges are the Cuyamacas — in which I lived for eleven years, and, just 10 miles further east, the Lagunas, in which I hiked and skied. The Cuyamacas have a leash law. The Lagunas do not.

Sometimes you see photos of San Diego looking east from Coronado Island. You see ocean, town, bay, city and, behind everything, a snowy mountain. That mountain is Cuyamaca Peak.

Cuyamaca Peak with snow on it

The second time the Good X and I skied in San Diego County we headed to a trail head at Green Valley Falls (fantastic falls in spring and in a wet summer, idyllic with pools and slides to play in, drop down, swim in, wade). We parked, paid our $5 day use fee, strapped on our skis, and headed up a trail we knew nothing about. It wound around the north side of the mountain to the west where it looked down on San Diego and the Pacific Ocean. We climbed, and climbed and climbed until we got to where we could see San Diego, but that wasn’t all we saw. We also saw fresh cougar tracks.

I didn’t know anything about mountain lions then except that they are dangerous. I had no knowledge of that world yet and little curiosity. We high-tailed it down and headed home, stopping on the way to watch a movie and have dinner.

Twenty years later, I would live at the base of that mountain and see it on fire. Later, I would see that far western slope with fire weed blooming. I would hike the trails in the Laguna Mountains in all weather, and ski to the top of Garnet Peak against all sanity and all odds. I would see a mountain lion.

Garnet Peak (a fun hike in the Laguna Mountains) in the winter of 2003/2004 after the Cedar Fire, oil on canvas.

The skis in the featured photo are just like the skis I took with me in 1984 from Denver to San Diego. They are — were — wonderful back country skis. They needed to be waxed which I liked because I could control the “slide” depending on my adventure. I found these old skis three years ago in a thrift store here in Monte Vista. They aren’t my very skis, but when I saw them they seemed to call out, “Get us OUT of here!” I had not had my hip replacement (second one, different hip) yet and I wasn’t moving very well. I was with my friends. We’d gone for lunch but weren’t ready to go home, so we visited a new thrift store in town. Without thinking, I reached for those old skis and cradled them in my arms. Elizabeth said in a soft voice “Are you going to ski, Martha?” There was so much pity in her eyes that I set the skis back where they were and went back to shopping. I returned to the store alone a few days later, forked over $30, and brought them home. They stand in my studio along with many other very personal treasures from my life. In a way, that room is my “medicine bundle,” my little trove of talismans.

Looking back on my first forays into the San Diego mountains, it’s funny to realize all the things I didn’t know yet. Makes me wonder what else I don’t know yet.


P.S. I’m writing my ski stories because writing the stories is how I figure things out. Now that it seems I’ve reached the end of this moment in my life, I want to see it more clearly and understand it better. I hope it’s not too tedious. ❤

Learning to Langlauf

The first time I went X-country skiing was with the first-X. Our marriage was over, but we hadn’t divorced each other or even faced the reality. He was a terrible husband who hit and kicked me from time to time, but we got married young and never sought the help we needed. I was in graduate school in Denver and he, believing I would use his money to get my MA in English and then leave him (because an MA in English leads to SO MANY lucrative careers), left me for grad school in Laramie at the University of Wyoming. Up in that wild and woolly world, he started X-country skiing. When I went up to spend a weekend, he rented me skis and took me to the Medicine Bows west of Laramie.

I hated it like I’d never hated any sport before. I don’t know if it was just that I didn’t know how or the company I was with, but I ended up soaked to the skin (back then long johns were cotton waffle weave = sponge).

I vowed never to do it again.

A few years later I read about “skinny skis” in Outside Magazine and it struck a spark. I decided it might be fun if I had lessons. I found lessons in the flyer for Denver Free University and signed up. I bought skis from the LLBean Catalog (Karhu Bear Claws fish-scale skis) poles, boots and the bindings — 3 pin bindings — came with the whole thing. Strangely, the day they arrived, my X showed up at my apartment. His new wife was visiting friends and he decided to visit me. We had three or four such visits over the years and I saw — and he saw — that it probably should have worked. We just didn’t know how. I’ve known him since the 9th grade.

The first class met in a classroom and the teacher was great. He was friendly, passionate about X-country skiing. When the actual DAY came, we all got in a big Chevy Suburban and headed up to Devils Thumb Ranch over Berthoud pass and more or less across the street from Winter Park Ski Area. Devils Thumb Ranch is pretty fancy now, but back in the late 1970s it was a big one story wood and log building with a few motel rooms, a kitchen and a dining room. Out the back was a deck, a “bunny slope” where little kids could learn to downhill ski and a rental area. Behind it were miles of X-country trails, none of which were groomed trails (I never saw groomed trails until I moved here in 2014) but all of which were well marked. The trails wound around meadows, through aspen groves and pine clusters.

It was a crystalline clear Colorado mountain winter day with ice crystals in the sky and virgin snow everywhere. The teacher took us through exercises so we got used to the skis. We played tag running with those boards on our feet, falling, laughing and learning. Best class of my LIFE. Then we skied. We learned to kick and glide, how to do a stem turn and even had the chance to try the beautiful and classic telemark turn.

My dreams started there. The next class was in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area where I loved to hike in summer. That was the day I met the Good-X, but that’s not what this post is about. The snow was front range snow which isn’t really easy for me to describe other than to say it had been through more changes than the holy snow at Devils Thumb Ranch had been. It was a wonderful day.

I wanted to go all the time, and began experiencing the reality that most people I knew didn’t want to go all the time and NONE of them wanted to X-country ski. It wasn’t “cool” and it wasn’t fast. Most people thought Nordic skiing was just walking around in snow, but it’s so much more than that and it CAN be fast. Most of all, it can take a person into the “real” mountains away from the crowds. I’d been reading A Moveable Feast in which Hemingway decries ski lifts and lauds the times when people were strong skiers because they had to make their way up the mountain under their own power. I thought getting up the mountain under my own power was the definition of cool.

So, one Sunday morning I got up, looked at my 1970 VW bug with its low-tech ski rack (basically giant rubber bands stretched against a frame that held onto the car with hooks that went inside the doors) and thought, “Fuck it. I’m going to ski to *Lost Lake.” I got dressed (I had learned about wool long johns by then), put my precious Karhu skis in the rack and headed to Boulder, then up Boulder Canyon to Nederland, to the Fourth of July Campground and parked as far up the road as it was safe to park. VW bugs had very high clearance. I took my skis off the roof, put them on and headed up the mountain.

I’d hiked this trail dozens of times. I knew it well. At first it’s essentially a gravel road that turns into a stream in spring. It goes past a ghost town and an old campground. After the road, there’s a trail head and soon the trail goes up very quickly, does a little turn and then a person is on the main trail which is a steady climb, part of it up an old corduroy mining road. It runs beside then crosses a stream over a small waterfall. A little while later, there’s a fork — go straight to several glacial lakes or up to Devils Thumb. Turn left, Lost Lake, the lowest of this cluster of glacial lakes.

I made my turn and skied the sweet flat trail to the lake which was frozen and covered with snow. The mountains that held the lake as a cup holds tea were too steep to hold any snow themselves and the tracks of small avalanches were apparent on the eastern slopes.

There wasn’t much to do up there when it came to it. The main event was getting there. I drank some water, ate a granola bar, considered my adventure and turned around. The only challenge of the experience was getting down the steep little bit at the beginning of the trail, but I did it. I loaded my skis back on the top of my VW Bug and headed home to Denver.

It was my fourth time on X-country skis.

That winter there were more experiences on my skinny skis. My neighbor (guy in the photo above) and I headed up to Devils Thumb ranch one Saturday and had a blast that included me falling forward into four feet of snow and burying my arms. I laughed so hard I couldn’t get up. My friend came whizzing by, saw me, cracked up and nearly hit a tree before he crashed. BUT it also happened that day that in the stillness of the snowy forest a jay ate a bit of granola from my hand. I lived in momentary hope that this neighbor — newly moved into the apartment across the hall — would want to go ALL THE TIME but he didn’t. It was the first lesson I had that guys will do stuff with you not because they like what you’re doing but because they have a condom in their wallet. Dark times. 😉

My Karhu skis were not back-country skis. They were just simple and cheap waxless skis. I would own more appropriate skis as time wore on and ski some other dramatic places, but never that adventure again.

I’m not that girl any more — not physically, obviously, but in more profound ways. I understand where she wanted to go back in 1979/1980 and I’ve been there. That’s enormous. When I think of how long it has taken me to learn what anything actually IS I’m dumbfounded.

And maybe I still don’t know.

*There are at least three lakes named “Lost Lake” in Colorado which could explain how they got lost. This is the Lost Lake I’m referring to here. It was once fairly remote but a lot more people live in the towns around it now, so the trails are now sometimes closed due to over use.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2021/01/23/rdp-saturday-spark/

Another Damned Growth Opportunity?

Time casts a long shadow. I’m feeling that now. Four years of anger and frustration and bewilderment and “POOF!” I know the changes that need to be made won’t be “POOF!” but I’m wondering how much of that anger, frustration and bewilderment BECAME me?

Yesterday after Biden had been sworn in, I took off on my skis. The nordic club had laid track basically for ME. I wanted to be out in the snow while it was still cold and not sticky. I struggled to get one of my bindings to close, but I succeeded and took off. It was beautiful. Then, at the halfway point I decided to turn around because my bio mechanics is funky and one of my legs is 1/2 inch longer than the other and I’d been skiing with that leg on the inside of the curve when it should be on the OUTSIDE (think of a drawing a circle with a compass). Not long after I turned, I lost my balance (the snow depth is very uneven out there) and fell. I got up and more or less into my skis, well into one ski, but I wasn’t able to close my ski binding again no matter what I did. I ended up lugging my skis a quarter mile out of there. Not fun.

My balance until this year has always been pretty good out there. This year? No. Yeah, a packed trail is easier to ski on and it wasn’t packed, just nicely broken. And there’s the leg length problem. And there’s the fact that my glasses are whack. While I was skiing, I struggled the whole time to keep my feet in line and to remain upright.

Once I got to Bella (who loves deep snow, bless her little Jeep heart) and turned on my car, Mohammed’s Radio was playing the Byrd’s, “Turn Turn Turn.” “Fuck that,” was my first thought.

I was hurt, but not injured, if that makes any sense. I’m still not walking great and so on and so forth. There are bruises around my ankle where my legs threw themselves against my boots in the second fall day before yesterday.

The thing is, I want to go back out today, but can’t because of my ski binding and my body. The store says I should bring them in and that’s right, but today’s not the day. I want to change them out for automatic bindings that I don’t have to bend over to close or open. That’s what I always had (once I’d given up 3 pin bindings which are OK with me, too). When a person has balance problems, bending down to close something on the ground isn’t always a great idea.

On the other hand, I have begun to wonder if it’s just time to give up. As things are right now, I’m barely walking, but I know it will be better tomorrow and the next day. The thing is, if you can’t endure falls, don’t ski. 3 falls in two days.

I am still superstitiously haunted by Bella’s spooky radio and The Byrd’s singing, “Turn, Turn, Turn” is a semi-quote of Ecclesiastes 3. No one knows who wrote Ecclesiastes, but there is a case made for it having been written by King Solomon. In any case, these are wise words, and a part of Ecclesiastes 3 that isn’t often shared. I don’t know any rock songs about this:

“…10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.”

The part we all know is a lesson in acceptance: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens”

It’s strange we don’t go around saying, “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and do good while they live.” Personally, I think it would be cool if we did.

I expect that I will take the skis to the shop next Monday and see if I can switch the bindings. I don’t think I’m psychically ready to give up, but the problem is, it might be physical wisdom to hang up my skis. Life seems to be a process of becoming someone else all the damned time. I remember being young and wanting to “find myself.” The thing is whoever that “self” is, it’s like the horizon.

Like this little poem by Stephen Crane. I used to read it one way; that we have the right to pursue our dreams and no one has the right to stop us (Take that mom). Now I just think it’s a smart, experienced person talking to a child.

“I saw a man pursuing the horizon”
BY STEPHEN CRANE

I saw a man pursuing the horizon; 
Round and round they sped. 
I was disturbed at this;   
I accosted the man. 
“It is futile,” I said, 
“You can never —” 

“You lie,” he cried,   
And ran on.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2021/01/21/the-ragtag-daily-prompt-thursday-long-shadows/

Langlauf Update

Another beautiful day on skis. The snow was less great than the other day but the way I see it, the snow doesn’t owe me anything. If I’m going to engage with it, I’m the one who has to adapt. I have no problem AT ALL surrendering to the imperatives of snow. I’m honored to have the chance.

I had to break trail today and learned that my skis, which are named “back country,” seem to be mostly designed for groomed trails — but that could be my lack of skill at this moment. As I skied from snow to ice to some small patches of grass to deep drifts to the lanes I skied on Saturday, I thought about that a lot. I thought about all the skis I’ve owned and when, sometime back in the mists of time, I switched from “fish-scale” — waxless — to skis that needed to be waxed, I never looked back. Sometime I learned back then the advantage of skis whose grip I control.

Groomed trails are nice — you don’t slide sideways, you can predict the surface beneath your skis because it’s been packed and prepared. Breaking trail is often not skiing at all. I had forgotten that, even though in California when I had the chance to Langlauf, I always had to break trail — again, with different skis than I have now. Sometimes that was hilarious as it could mean navigating through low manzanita bushes. Once I skied up Mt. Palomar with the dream of seeing those beautiful white observatory domes in the snow. It’s a five mile trail, all uphill, and some of the trail is bushy and all of it is narrow. It was still fun. The reward came coming down the unplowed road, though. It was wide, snowy, steep — fun. As we whizzed past a family who’d driven there from LA to “Visit the snow” a kid yelled, “Mom, that’s what we should do!”

They’d gone to the snow with a beach umbrella, beach chairs and a cooler. They looked very disoriented. A boogie board would have been a good thing to bring, but they didn’t have that.

Langlauf tracks heading toward Garnet Peak in the Laguna Mountains, San Diego County, 2004. My painting. Not my tracks. 🙂 A fire came through that fall (The Cedar Fire) and burned down all the manzanita making a good trail for Langlauf.

Today I also thought how — last year — we didn’t get significant snow until January, and then we got A LOT. The San Juan Nordic Club went around grooming everything in sight — even the driving range! The temps stayed below freezing for a couple of months, so the groomed tracks stayed in nearly pristine condition — the only kicker (ha ha) was waiting until the highest sun of the day (1 pm or so) when any ice that had formed in the night would have surrendered.

It’s doubtful that I will switch back to waxable skis; it will depend how ambitious I end up being and how skillful. For now and maybe forever the waxless skis I own now are fine. It’s a poor workman who blames his tools, anyway.

The other “iffy” tool is “the foot,” but it held up again today, only mildly painful when we were in motion. The thing is, I realized, after nearly 3 months of not being asked to support my weight continually, it’s a little out of shape. It’s only been these last few weeks that I’ve expected it to hold me up for a whole day while I painted, or to keep me upright walking Bear as she checks her messages.

As I did my happy loop of the local golf course I thought, “The cool thing about this is I can get better, more skillful, stronger and as that happens, I will learn more and, I hope, take on a bigger challenge.” The golf course is — right now — all I can contend with. I’m so lucky to have it.

Now we just need another good snowfall. ❤

Cross Country Ski Trail of My Dreams

Today we went up to Dick Boyce Cross Country Ski Area which is pretty close to my house — maybe 15 miles on paved and good gravel roads. I learned how to get there when, as I tell Bear, the good times return. The trail is totally within my range of abilities and is two miles RT. I had good cell service all the way along it. That matters since sometimes I’ll probably go alone.

We talked briefly about “What’s your next writing project?” and I said I had no idea.

One of my friends said, “Write about three ladies who go hiking together.”
I said I couldn’t because right now I’m in the middle of that story and it’s a very sweet one.

We’d had a kind of deep and earnest talk earlier about maybe we shouldn’t bitch about getting old(er). I said I don’t really bitch, and that sometimes remembering I’m 67 going on 68 helps me remember that I’m not 30, that I used my body hard, that stuff happened to it, and I have to figure out where I am now because I can’t go back even to what I was when I was fifty. I said I sometimes feel like a failure until I remember I’m nearly 70. In earlier days, before my hip surgery, when we took off together, many things were difficult for me, and my friends were there to witness and help. I told them today I can do anything now, but I have a problem with apprehension; I’m a little afraid.

Elizabeth said that’s natural and to be expected.

Karen says she feels like herself until she looks in the mirror. I laughed because the other day I looked in the mirror and said, “Well, I could be a lot uglier.”

I guess that’s kind of an affirmation.

Deep inside, for me, what matters is continuing to try to find wonderful things to do. I think I share that with my friends. Each of us found a treasure, too. 🙂

Stubborn or steadfast? No Surrender

This post has resonance for me today, March 24, 2019 When I wrote it, I still lived in California. 

Daily Prompt: Never Surrender, by Krista on March 11, 2014: Are you stubborn as a grass stain or as easy going as a light breeze on a warm day? Tell us about the ways in which you’re stubborn — which issues make you dig your heels in and refuse to budge? Photographers, artists, poets: show us STEADFAST.

I’m not very stubborn. I think my friends would say something different, though they would agree I’m not one of those “My way or the highway” types, well, yes I am. I’m “My way IS the highway.” Long ago I had a dream that was based on events in my real life. I went from place to place, hanging out with people who then attempted to foist their “trip” (we said that then) onto me. At a certain point in each episode I said, “F…. this s…. man, I’m getting out of here!” (It’s a lot more powerful in real words.) I toyed with the thought of having that as my epitaph.

I think “steadfast” is another thing. That’s something involving honor and respect. It’s loyalty and commitment. Outside of marriage (not my métier) I’m very steadfast. I really do, once I make the commitment, “bear it out until the edge of doom.” I do not know if this old-school virtuous behavior is always wise. (Continuing to write the Daily Prompt has often seemed doubtful but I haven’t given up. 😉 )

But… the song to which today’s prompt alludes is important to me. Back in the ’80s I wondered what I was doing. I was teaching and married. My husband was a nice guy, but he didn’t love me. I was doing everything in my power to put a good face on things, holding my marriage together, steadfastly building a relationship with his kids (whom I loved), steadfast in my life-time attempt to reach my mother (ha), building what I thought would be a career, I was pushing hard to make everything work. Perseverance. This song. Had I surrendered? What was I really?

New students arrived, were interviewed for placement in oral communication classes. One student, Jean Francois Minot-Matot from Geneva, answered the questions in a very a-typical way. “I live for ski,” he said. I had once “Lived for ski.” I heard his statement echo down the chambers of my heart. The sound returning said, “What do I live for?” On my way home from that interview I listened to this song for the first time, played on a new tape. Those two events, “I live for ski,” and the refrain from the song,

'Cause we made a promise we swore we'd always remember 
No retreat, baby, no surrender 
Blood brothers in the stormy night 
With a vow to defend 
No retreat, baby, no surrender

I’d made that vow with people — where were they? I was sure one was dead, another was lost forever to time because I sent him away, another was on the hellish rollercoaster of addiction. The fields of my childhood were long gone in an eternal golden autumn, and my life was nothing more than patching broken things and holding them together until the glue dried. Was I where I’d set out to be? Where were the beautiful words? The thoughts, the conversations, the stories? Where were the adventures? Where was the world — why was I not in it? I’d made a start and retreated, pulled back into a stucco-home in an East San Diego ghetto and a man who didn’t love me?

“I live for ski.”
“What do you do when the snow has melted?”
“Er, OUI! We have ze glacier. You know glacier?”
“Yes.”

St. Mary’s glacier. I’d never skied it. I always believed I would ski it, but how would I do that, here under the banana palms, surrounded by bougainvillea.

“Er, and I, I like ze windsurf.”

I was 34. About to turn 35. I was middle-aged (what did I know?) I was over. Actually, my life began because of Jean Francois Minot-Matot. I’ve “gotten” nowhere with those dreams, but I learned dreams are not a place to go; they are a place to be. And, every dream involves a little patching up and holding together.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/daily-prompt-never-surrender/

“Multiple Sclerosis, Vikings and Nordic Skiing”

As I was writing my post yesterday about my sweet ski “adventure” I remembered a rune of a Viking on skis with a bow and arrow and I wanted to put it in my post. I googled it and found it, yay! (should I end this here?) I also found a program on PBS that caught my attention, “Multiple Sclerosis, Vikings and Nordic Skiing.” How could ANYONE not be caught by a title like that? For me it was especially provocative. My dad suffered from MS and, beyond that obvious hook, who isn’t fascinated by Vikings and, yeah, Langlauf. ❤

Wow.

I already knew that MS is more prevalent among people from Northern Europe. It has a much higher incidence in Scandinavia and among those of Scandinavian descent. Science has now tracked it across the North Atlantic, a disease of the central nervous system carried in Viking Ships. My dad’s mother was from Sweden, and Ancestry tells me I am mostly Scots, Irish and Scandinavian, all parts of the world where MS is comparatively common. Yay Vikings!

MS is an autoimmune disease that most often shows up in young adulthood, but people can have it for a long time without knowing it. The film goes into detail about the diagnosis and the science behind the progress of the disease. It can now be accurately diagnosed with an MRI, which didn’t exist when my dad was alive. My dad’s MS was diagnosed with certainty in an autopsy. If you’re interested, you can learn about MS here, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society webpage.

Dad, me, Aunt Martha 1963

The program followed six people in the United States and Norway who’d been diagnosed with MS. One of the points of the program was how exercise can help people with MS. The problem with exercise is that heat — even a rise in body temperature — can be debilitating, causing fatigue and a relapse of symptoms. The obvious sport for a person with MS is the national sport of Norway; Nordic skiing.

In 2012 and 13 (I believe) the American Birkebeiner worked in partnership with the National Multiple Sclerosis Foundation to raise money for MS. Three of the skiers in the program did the American Birkebeiner race. At the same time, three Norwegian women skied the Norwegian Birkebeiner.

Both American Birkebeiner races drew Norwegian Olympic champion skiers to Wisconsin to race and raise funds. One of those champions has a mom who suffers from MS.

As I watched them race, I was lost, thinking, “Birki WHAT?” I had no idea…

It started in 1206. Birkebeiner skiers, so called for their protective birch bark leggings, skied through the treacherous mountains and rugged forests of Norway’s Osterdalen valley during the winter of 1206, smuggling the son of King Sverresson and Inga of Vartieg to safety. The flight taken during the Norwegian Civil War took the Birkebeiners and prince from Lillehammer to safety in the town of Trondheim. Inga of Vartieg never became queen as the prince’s father was killed before he could return for her in Vartieg. Norwegian history credits the Birkebeiners’ bravery with preserving the life of the boy who later became King Haakon Haakonsson IV and forever changed Northern Europes’ history by his reign.

The story and painting of the flight were the inspiration for the first Birkebeinger ski race held in Norway in 1932. To this day, Norwegian skiers still carry a pack, symbolizing the weight of an 18-month child, in the Worldloppet’s Norwegian Birkebeiner Rennet race from Rena – Lillehammer. Thousands of skiers commemorate the journey with annual Birkebeiner races in Norway, Canada, and the United States.

The race known today as the American Birkebeiner began in 1973 as the dream of the late Tony Wise. Thirty-four men and one lone woman were on the starting line clad in woolen sweaters and knickers for the 50-kilometer race from the Lumberjack Bowl in Hayward to Telemark Lodge in Cable, Wisconsin. Nineteen more women and juniors would ski a shorter race from “OO” to Telemark. Few knew they were going to make history. There were no U.S. Ski Team members or foreign skiers, just a handful of enthusiasts from a couple of midwestern states, out to try something new. Many of the entrants were on cross-country skis for the first season – some for the first time.

Today, over 13,000 skiers of all ages and abilites and 20,000 spectators fromaround the world gather every February in the Cable-Hayward, Wisconsin area to celebrate “The Birkie”, a race which has become a legend in the cross-country ski world. We look forward to you joining us!

https://www.birkie.com/about/history/

The six racers with MS all made it. One of the Norwegian women said she hadn’t expected the race to be fun. “All along the way people cheered me on, gave me coffee, water, food. My time was better than I thought it would be, and I never felt alone. I had so much fun!”

Another Norwegian woman said that the race kept her training every day, even when she didn’t feel like it. When race day came, she was nervous, but ended up having a great time.

A young Wisconsin racer, a former competitive skier who’d been dismayed by her diagnosis (naturally) explained — as the camera followed her awkward little pink tight-clad form around the 25 mile course, “I stopped worrying about my time or competing. I was there to have fun and to make it all the way. It was wonderful. I hope I can keep having fun like this way into my 80s!”

A young man whose main symptom was arm weakness, said, “I felt my arms going about half way so, for a while, I just poled every other stroke.” He stood beaming with the Birkebeiner medal around his neck.

Getting Better at Langlauf

I’ve decided to use the German word for Nordic skiing — Langlauf. It’s easier than writing “Nordic skiing” all the time.

We got about an inch and a half or two inches of sweet wet snow last night and when I took Bear out for her walk, we went to the golf course mostly so I could assess the conditions. After about a half a mile, I knew the conditions were good enough for me.

One benefit of having lived in Southern California for 30 years is that this Colorado woman isn’t a snow elitist. If it’s skiable, I’ll ski it.

It was more than skiable. It was really great. And, my abilities have improved. What took forty minutes the first couple of times took only about 25 today, not that I’m in a hurry, but that indicates I’m getting my “ski legs.”

It’s really wonderful when, for so long, my abilities to do almost anything — even stand around — only deteriorated.

Last night I watched an episode of Nature (on PBS) called “The Wild World of the Vikings.” In it, a Viking skied, OK not a REAL Viking, a re-enacting skiing Viking, but I just thought, “That’s just so cool.” The whole program was fascinating and beautiful, but that was my favorite 30 second (if that) bit. I have always felt on “die Langlaufski” absolutely free, not tied to some chair lift or gondola, no lift ticket to buy, and nothing but the freedom of snow in the mountains. Because I’m getting better at it, I’m hoping that I will get on mountain trails this year. We’ll see.

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P.S. Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog has discovered that I enjoy it when she rolls in the snow. Her new thing is to lie on her back in the snow while I scratch her tummy. She’s really not like the other kids.