“Don’t look down at your skis or right in front of you,” my instructor said yesterday. “Look far ahead down the mountain, the way you want to go.”
“But what if there’s uneven terrain or something nasty right in front of me?”
“It’ll be too late then anyway. You don’t look at the hood of your car when you drive, do you?”
She was right – I actually managed to get my skis more parallel and carve better turns when I stopped looking down at them.
Who’d have ever imagined I’d be able to improve my athletic prowess so late in life? All through my teens, I was one of those kids who dreaded gym, who was picked last for every team in every season. I especially hated volleyball, and used the “female troubles” ploy more times than was physiologically possible. In spring, when my classmates played softball, I chose tennis, which meant hiding behind the backboard out of sight of the gym teacher. Years later, as an art therapist at a psychiatric center, I generated much merriment during a softball game with patients at a picnic because I screamed and dodged whenever a ball flew anywhere in my vicinity.
But clutzy as I am, for some reason I’ve always loved skiing. Maybe it’s my Scandinavian genes, or the fact that I can steer clear of competition and ski alone. In the past two years, my skiing has improved about a thousand percent, or so Jude, my instructor, said. We were midway down Gore Mountain, and I was taking advantage of the Out of Control Ski Club’s free private lesson day on my last ski outing of the season.
In the interim since I’d last seen her, I took a series of weekly lessons at Jiminy Peak in a program especially designed for women, in which the lessons are followed by a buffet lunch at Jiminy’s John Harvard restaurant and then unlimited access to the hot tub and heated pool. I’m not enamored of lessons – at my age, I don’t take directions well. But it really helps to know what I’m doing, and my ego loves knowing that I can actually improve at something athletic that most folks my age are too terrified even to attempt.
So why was yesterday my last ski day? Simple – I hate spring slush. Here’s a poem I wrote about my last day at Jiminy. I took some poetic license, since my last ski day was yesterday at Gore, and I spent most of the afternoon in the bar listening to a band that did excellent covers of the Byrds, Neil Young and the like. As the poem says, I’m turning my thoughts to spring. And as Jude advised, I’m looking ahead, rather than dwelling on the muddy ground at my feet.
Were you a clutzy kid in gym? Have you gotten more athletic with age? I’d love to hear your stories. Meanwhile, here’s my poem.
Alone on the vast white slope of Panorama,
not a soul in sight. March is doing her early lion number,
ripping and whistling past my ears, searing my cheeks,
making me wish I’d worn my black ski mask,
my terrorist balaklava. The weathermen were wrong,
but Jiminy was right. Machine-groomed granular,
they called it in their morning e-mail –
another word for crap.
I’m channeling my Viking forebears,
forcing myself to face the fall line,
carving my way through piles of sodden slush.
My thighs ache from the work, the weight of it.
I picture Lindsey Vonn, flaunting her mini-skirted thighs,
flashing her gold Olympic medal
on Jay Leno’s first come-back show.
How can she be so strong and yet so slender,
not to mention gorgeous.
Me, I’m more the Brunhilde type,
complete with helmet to guard against concussions
or sudden death. Rubenesque flesh,
swathed in baggy black pants
I’ll ditch upon final snow melt.
Next year I’ll need a smaller size – yeah, right.
So this is pleasure? Halfway down the hill
the realization hits me – this is my final run.
The season’s truly shifting.
Crocuses are pushing up unseen
beneath the mounds of filthy snow that shroud my garden.
Winter’s a goner – time to lay the ground for spring.
© March 6, 2010 Julie Lomoe