31 January 2011

Learning to ski

I haven't run in several weeks, and I can't stand it!  If you don't love to run, you won't understand, but there are some days when I want nothing more than to be outside running.  That's why it's tough to go to the window and see nothing but snow and ice out there.  That's winter in Minnesota, though, so I guess I have to deal with it.

I mentioned in my last post that I've taken up cross country skiing.  It has proven to be a good activity to see me through some of these winter days.  I really enjoy it.  I'm learning from a member of my parish who has trails cut around his property.  It's great to be able to learn from someone who has been skiing for almost as long as I've been alive, and to be doing it out of sight of others.  I had never been on skis of any kind in my life before, so I fell a lot the first time, even a couple times on level ground!  It would have been embarrassing and frustrating to go through that in a more public place.  Luckily my teacher is very patient and encouraging.  By the second and third time, I was doing much better.  I still fall every once in a while going down some of the steeper hills, but I improve every time out.  It's great cardio work and really enjoyable to be out in the woods.  I wish I could do it more, but it takes more of a time commitment than running, so I'm only able to get out and ski once a week or so. 

On a deeper level, the whole experience has reminded me of how important mentors are for us throughout our lives.  Perhaps there are some people out there who really are "self taught" at certain things, but for most of us, we need others to look up to and to instruct us.  I've been thinking a lot about how we are essentially relational beings.  We are not individuals who form relationships.  Instead, our individual identities emerge out of the relationships around us.  This is not meant to pass the buck, as if we aren't responsible for our actions as individuals.  For me, it just brings a greater understanding to who I am and why I am.  It also helps me remember that I'm not running (or skiing) alone.  Since winter can be pretty isolating here in the north, that's no small thing. 

Perhaps that's one hidden blessing in winter.  It gives you a healthy appreciation of the blessings you enjoy when they return.  Maybe I would start to hate running if I could do it in 65 degree weather all year long.  A little time to wait and reflect and anticipate that joy again is good in its own way.  Like spending time away from a good friend, it can make the reunion that much more joyous.