Why I won’t (usually) go cross-country skiing with you

Animal-nibbled branch

This blog is for you, the dear friends who keep inviting me to go cross-country skiing.  How many times have I said no?  How many times have I hemmed and hawed and confidentially explained, “I would go skiing with you…but I fall all the time…just find me a straight path without hills…”

Today the Real Reason for the continual refusals emerged. 

Peeking out spruce branch

The Real Reason is this:  I am head-over-heels in love with meandering in the outdoors.  That means slowwww walking.  Following the inner direction to the right, to the left, up there, down there, never quite knowing where you are, or where you’re going next. 

It’s as if the Spirit of Nature takes you and shows you the way.  Sometimes she even takes all of our crazy thoughts and throws them in the sky and we walk in a mystical state, a contemplative state, a state of flowing.

We flow from branch to branch, tree to tree, snow bank to snow bank.  If we’re wearing snowshoes, we clomp from hillock to hillock.  But we’re always flowing, moving to an invisible rhythm.

Orange. Leaf. Snow.

When I ski, I’m going fast.  Usually on the edge of control.  My thoughts are always panting non-stop:   “Hope I don’t fall.  Hope I keep up with everyone.  Hope I don’t fall.”  There is no meandering about it.  It seems to be about speed, about gliding, about moving rapidly on the trail.

There is not a lot of time to stand around and daydream, to fall on your knees in front of leaves and belly up to indentations in the earth beneath rotting logs.

Revelations of root tendrils

When I’m skiing I’m missing the subtle.  Missing the roots, the miniscule arched curve of branches, the underground homes of the Little People.  Sure, you can see another view of Gorgeous as you swoosh and slide through the magnificent woods on skis.  But it’s not the view of gorgeous that I most dearly love.  You know, the intricate details of nature which hide in plain sight.  Which wait for eyes to notice.

Little people live here. I'm sure.

OK, all that other stuff–about not wanting to fall–is true, too.  But the deeper truth is that I love to go slow.  I love to be silent.  To give myself over to nature, to be walked by her.  To be shown by her.

Does anyone else feel the same way?  Or are the rest of you in love with cross-country skiing?

P.S.  I’ll still go skiing on that flat trail this year!  But I may be stopping…you know…if that arch of a branch waves or the snow creatures wink in the afternoon sun.

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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28 Responses to Why I won’t (usually) go cross-country skiing with you

  1. I’m with you Kathy. I love the slow meander, snowshoing if the snow is deep. I can turn around better in the tight spots. I took a meander in the woods today, found chaga on a birch tree! Now to discover the values of the other fungi in the woods. On place I like to ski is out on the snow covered frozen lake. It’s been a while since that thrill.

    • Kathy says:

      Carla, I had to google “Chaga” to see what it was. Oh yes, I’ve seen that on birch trees. Never knew what it was. Interesting folk medical uses for it. Oh yes, I’ve skied on the lake…that was fun. Maybe that will be the flat ski this year.

  2. Dawn says:

    Cross country doesn’t have to be fast. Some of my favorite photos were taken on Mich Tech trails years ago. But I was by myself. So I think it’s more a crowd control issue for you. Of course long skis do make it harder to turn around in the woods than snowshoes! LOL! So if the snow is deep and you plan on being off the trail, snowshoes are probably best. But don’t give up on skis. You might find a “whole nother” aspect of outdoor photography and mother nature!

    • Kathy says:

      Dawn, I had to smile. Your response reminded me of my friend, Rachel. She said almost the exact words to me a few years ago! We actually went on a slow slow ski on the Mich Tech trails. It was quite fun. I am laughing now at your assessment of “crowd control”. Yep, you watch, in a few years I’ll probably be head-over-heels in love with cross country skiing. Kind of like photography. LOL. Never say never!

  3. fountainpen says:

    Kathy: Do you have a picture of chaga?


  4. Gerry says:

    I love swooping down hills on skis. It’s just fun. Like dancing, or running on the beach. Fun.

    When I want to go for a walk I prefer snowshoes because I can maneuver in them.

    When I don’t want to go anywhere I prefer my ratty old slippers.

  5. Cindy Lou says:

    My hand is up and wiggling in the air….’pick me, pick me!’ While I’ve enjoyed my few endeavors with x-country skiing, it seems like a bit too much work for this gal. Strolling on the beach, ambling through the woods, meandering any old where, ratty old slippers….those are more my style. Hard to be on the ‘edge of control’ like that! 🙂

  6. My first experience with cross country skiing was going down Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park. I fell a lot on purpose as I would get going too fast and the snow covered mountain road I was on had big drop offs.

    Though I survived, I much prefer walking in the woods, too.

    • Kathy says:

      Scott, “Hurricane Ridge” does not sound like it should be one’s first experience with cross-country skiing! I can see why one would fall on purpose…(I do that on downhill skiing ventures. Make that “did that”. Haven’t downhill skied in many a year.) I see we have another vote for “walker”.

  7. flandrumhill says:

    I went cross country skiing with my brother once and never tried it again. I’d prefer snowshoeing any day.

  8. Quietpaths says:

    Yes, I get this. Also, I’m sorry to those of you who love it, but XC just isn’t fast enough for me via skis and not leisurely enough for a forest ramble. I admit that it’s been years since I’ve used those XC skies in the basement. Fun post, Kathy.

    • Kathy says:

      Christine, you sound just like my son! He loves to downhill ski. He’s living in San Diego now but has taken many skiing ventures to the mountains around LA and Tahoe and other western slopes. I can’t imagine skiing out there. It gives me the shivers just thinking about that speed. However, I can imagine how you guys can love it. Happy swooshing down the mountains this winter!

  9. janet says:

    Thanks for writing this. I guess I have some kind of hybrid thing going on. I love to ski!!!! And I LOVE to cruise along like biking, kinda fast to get that little thrill. BUT- I also have my camera in my pocket which gives me a good reason to stop when something catches my eye.

    If only they would make gloves which: a) are super warm b) allow for great dexterity & c) come off and on easily. Then I would stop more often 🙂

    Meandering is a challenge for me, but I’m learning…and truly, the camera has been a great help in that practice of letting my focus be open enough to notice whatever little treat might be waiting.

    One more thing…falling down can be fun! As long as you don’t twist anything.

    • Kathy says:

      Janet, I love to hear your skiing perspective. Especially that last line: “Falling down can be fun! As long as you don’t twist anything.” That is very good to know! (And it’s also interesting to contemplate that meandering can be challenging for some people…as challenging as going fast is for others. Hmmm….)

  10. p.j. grath says:

    Kathy, your reasoning (or excuse?) is just what I would say. Have said. Now, though, if I were back home in Leelanau County, I’d be glad to be on snowshoes rather than trudging in boots with the snow coming in over the tops.

    • p.j. grath says:

      And why did I read your whole post as snowshoeing rather than skiing????? Had to go back again….

      • Kathy says:

        Pamela, welcome to the club! I always keep telling myself during blog reading: read more slowly, Kathy. Sometimes it seems like this Internet blog reading happens too fast. I’m really trying to slowwww down and really be present with what everyone is saying. Maybe, being the non-visual sort, you’re like me and trying to absorb the energy in one big hunk? And sort of missing some of the details…but not the main intent…Then again,maybe you were just thinking snowshoeing instead of skiing!

  11. Reggie says:

    Although I’ve neither snowshoed nor skied in my entire life (in fact, I’ve never even seen or touched snow in real life), I’m definitely with Kathy on this one.

    Rambling, meandering, contemplating, daydreaming, imagining magical creatures hidden on the edge of our normal senses, and finding those “underground homes of the Little People” – now THAT sounds like my kind of outdoor experience.

    Oh – and of course taking photographs. Looooots of photos in macro mode and super macro mode… like the ones you take! 🙂

    I love this: “There is not a lot of time to stand around and daydream, to fall on your knees in front of leaves and belly up to indentations in the earth beneath rotting logs.”

    Positively goosebumps. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Reggie, is there such a thing as “super” macro mode??? If so, I want a camera that captures Super Macro Mode! I am glad you like finding the homes where Little People live. Have you got a photograph of any of them yet?? LOL. That’s my goal!

      • Reggie says:

        I only discovered the ‘super macro mode’ on my Canon camera when I took it off the ‘Automatic’ setting onto the ‘P’ setting. ‘P’ gives me access to more settings, AND it suddenly made the ‘super macro mode’ available!!! It was (quite literally) an eye-opening realisation! 😀 I used it, for instance, to photograph the scary insect on my bathroom window sill.

      • Reggie says:

        Oh – I forgot to say that, most regrettably, I have *not yet* managed to photograph any Little People, although I *have*found *many* places where they might be hanging out. Or at least places where *I* would love to hang out if I was a Little Person. ;-P

        • Kathy says:

          Now that is an interesting thought…where would we like to hide out if we were a Little Person? And would they hang out in the same kind of places in South Africa as in Upper Michigan? I am now wondering if they hibernate during the snowy months…laughing…

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