Pretend you must explain “snow” to someone who has never seen it, never felt its feather-soft gentle coldness against cheek or hand.
What would you say?
Would you begin with “Snow is white, freezing cold, soft. It sometimes spits hard and sideways from the sky, stinging like nettles. It sometimes burrows into huge snowbanks, larger than tall men. Other times it dusts the ground, like sugar. Snow can be treacherous, blinding, encompassing, illuminating. It can be more beautiful than a gorgeous woman. Wet snow can be patted into a snowman, pliable as a child. Snow is…” and there your explanation might stop.
How would you explain snow to someone who has never thrown or ducked a snowball? How do you explain a substance so icy that it stings, turns fingers to ice, hurts with a freezing ferocity, and yet produces delight, joy, laughter, beauty, glee?
Yesterday I wrote of snowmobiles and snowmobilers.
Sonali, my friend from India with a blog called Dreams Hope Destiny, who sent a most-delightful handmade hand-colored Christmas card penned with delightful warm wishes, completely surprised me last night with this question: “Btw, whats snowmobile? Neither do we have snow nor snowmobiles.”
What? Neither snow nor snowmobiles?
Tell me, reader, how would you describe a snowmobile?
“A small machine geared with a track wrapped around it, the better to traverse over snow.”
“A snow machine designed to operate on snow or ice.”
“A snowmobile is not enclosed like a car. It has a plastic windshield, ski-like tracks and motor. It zooms rather loudly across snow.”
Now that we have an approximation of what a snowmobile might be–I shall offer a photo. It appeared in this blog in January, 2011, and shows a friend flying in the air on his snowmobile, experiencing great joy and delight.
Like all pursuits in life, snowmobiling attracts fans and foe.
Fans think it’s a magnificent sport, a wonderful roar through forests and along lakes, maneuvering up and down trails. Detractors think snowmobiling is loud, obnoxious and disgusting.
Some claim it brings them closer to nature as one glides through pristine woods; others decry it separates the rider from nature with whining motors and fast oblivion.
I have been a snowmobile rider and a snowmobile avoider.
Let’s speak first of the snowmobile rider phase.
You must let your memory move backwards, backwards, way backwards, to about 1969. If you were not alive in 1969, let your imagination soar. The Great North Woods of the United States was filled with Ski-doos. (I’m sure I may be corrected. Perhaps they were filled with many other snowmobiling companies, but in our Michigan circle it was filled with bright yellow Ski-doos.)
Every family with any extra means owned a Ski-doo. Every family in Michigan with any extra means headed north to the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula to snowmobile on snowy winter weekends.
Our family proved no exception. We owned one–two–no, it couldn’t have been three–Ski-doos. Dad and Tim rode on one; Mom and Scot rode on the other, so where was Kathy riding? She doesn’t recall. Perhaps we combined our riding snowmobiles (also known as “sleds”) with other families.
We headed north. I especially remember a long winter weekend in Wolverine, Michigan, with about six other families. I remember the feelings of laughter and closeness and warmth around the lodge fire. I remember the roar of the snowmobiles as we traversed miles of trails.
I remember that I wanted to be back home, writing in my little childhood bedroom, rather than bumping up and down on icy trails.
Yet, it was fun, too. Being away from home. Surrounded by so many friends. Enjoying the fierce cutting cold air against our cheeks.
Husband, Barry, started snowmobiling at age twelve, and snowmobiled hard and heavy for the next ten years. He used his knees for maximum gain, propping himself up on them to allow for better heft and navigation. He raced, he soared, he loved snowmobiling with a passion. (He wrecked his knees, sadly enough, a fact which has become increasingly evident this year.) He loved snowmobiling so much that he said, yes he said, this very winter: Kathy, I would do it again.
We moved to the Upper Peninsula barely out of college. He put away his snowmobiling days when we moved north. (Yes, this seems like illogical behavior to a snowmobile lover. But life creates such paradoxes.) He never snowmobiled again, until–
He bought an 1999 blue Yamaha snowmobile with long tracks about five years ago to help him more efficiently reach his ice fishing hole. He’s only put 56 miles on it since buying it. Mostly because it’s too hard to lug the heavy machine into his old 1949 Studebaker pickup truck before going ice fishing.
Sonali, are you beginning to form a clear picture in your mind?
Of the many faces of snow, the many faces of snowmobiling?
Like life, it’s not a clear-cut positive or negative.
I would prefer to be walking quietly and slowly through the snow, listening to small birds twitter. Hearing the crackle or snort of deer a half mile away in the woods. To sit on an icy stump (wearing Grandma’s 1970 snowmobile suit, for sure) and letting the quiet seep through the forest into my soul.
To everyone his or her own pleasures and gifts… May we deeply learn to respect and allow another’s preferences…and to realize the many different nuances of them.