skiing with a stranger

sometimes, things happen. there is alignment.  the hand fits the glove.

when i stirred this morning, my legs felt shortened.  muscles complained.  every attachment point for every leg tendon protested aloud. 

early season k’s will do that to an unseasoned athlete. 

i believe i am that person.  still.

despite the ambulatory alarms and a lazy, off-grid day in the forecast, i made it to the mount oberg trailhead at 11:30. 

i had to ski, dammit.

i was surprised to see but one vehicle in the parking lot.   i thought the lot would be full of those with the same “fever” that has coursed my system for the past week.  i moved to the trailhead and connected boots and skis.  the only other skier on the system approached and asked about the trails.

“fuck,”  i thought to myself….”if there are two blackbirds on a phone line do they perch next to one another?  no they spread out.”

happy thoughts.  put away mr. sour.

“oh….they’re good”, i said,  “but, the grooming has been a bit confusing so far.  it’s our first early season, skiable system since 2005, and the grooming has been virtually non-existant.  that said…i skied it yesterday and it’s pretty dang good.”

the first 100 m of the road are slightly downhill.  i pushed off, double poling, and the stranger followed.  glide begets gossip and so, we engaged in conversation.

he worked at the university of minnesota in plant pathlogy.  he has his doctorate.  he loves to ski.  his family has a cabin on caribou lake. 

“do you know linda kinkel?” i asked.

“i work in the lab next to her.”

linda is the wife of my m.s. advisor, dr. david andersen.

“surely, you know peter jordan?” i asked axed.

“i live right down the street from peter.”

then he asked “do you know john tester?”

at that point, i felt wellings of something…i don’t know… perhaps they were sentimental reconnections…but john tester…make that dr. john tester, was one of the faculty members at the u who was instrumental in getting my sorry ass into grad school.  he encouraged. he asked questions.  he saw the passion in me, nevermind the confused, sometimes academically bereft student i tended to be.

same for peter jordan.  same for bud tordoff.  same for gary duke….all names that my serendipitious skiing partner knew of and had rubbed elbows with, both professionally and socially.  and intrinsically, he knew of all the lives those individuals have shaped and melded and twisted and turned into functional erudites.

my facebook page has a number of friends i met in grad school while john tester and peter jordan and david andersen and pat redig and bud tordoff and gary duke and francie cuthbert were doing their work… just before sending us down the perilous path of reality. 

those were some outstanding classmates who are now renowned  teachers and scientists and philanthropists and fathers and mothers and role models and brothers and sisters and periodic senders of amusing, reconnective, affirming e-mails. the same classmates who never seem to be satisfied with their last achievement.   

meanwhile, i am humble and insecure and like to ski.

at the trail head, after our 11 km ski, i shook jim’s hand and said good-bye. 

i would have missed this had i been 5 minutes early or 5 minutes late. 

when the snow flies and winter’s passion stirs, life sometimes provides gentle reminders of vitality and purpose you thought was gone, and of functionality you are convinced is perhaps now, ill-defined.  

sometimes life does that. 

sometimes though, it turns just another ski into the best ski of my life.


About borealbilly

i am cursed by nocturnal self-awareness. View all posts by borealbilly

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