You can’t get too much winter in the winter. Robert Frost
The first few winters that we lived in the Upper Peninsula, I baked bread. Anadama, oatmeal, whole wheat, multigrain. I baked them all. With my two toddler sons playing at my feet, I poured my creative energy into the dough. As the winds howled and the snow pelted the windows and the banks outside grew higher and higher, I punched and rolled and stretched that dough until it became soft and supple and ready to bake. Through two long winters of inside living, the boys and I ate warm buttery bread. On most days that is – the days that the bread rose to the occasion. Sometimes though, in the midst of yet another blizzard, the bread fell flat. Those were the boys’ favorite days. “Mommy made brick bread! Mommy made brick bread!” they would cry. And then we would fling open the door as the winds gushed in and the snow stung our faces and we would heave those weighty loaves, set them flying right out into that white wild world of winter.
As cozy and warm as a kitchen is, it can become cramped. And bread baked every day is no longer a treat. And there’s something fun about flinging open a door and letting winter into your heart. So that’s what we did. We opened the door and set ourselves free. We discovered there was something even better than fresh-baked bread – a glittering glimmering playground waiting for us. There were the miles and miles, and months and months of snow. There were the balsam trees and the red osier, the quiet that seeped through the layers of your clothes, and the wild, howling wind that set your own spirit to howling. There were the animal tracks: the path of a wolf, an owl’s wing, the slippery slide of an otter. And it was all there for us outside the confines of a warm kitchen. The boys, a little older now, built snow forts, tobogganed down the hill behind our house, and, on Saturdays, glided along the groomed trails at Al Quaal in the Bill Koch Ski League. And I bought myself skate skis. It was the closest thing I knew to flying. And I forgot all about baking bread.
The boys have grown into men who love winter sports, and, I, for the past twenty-five years, have snapped those ski boots of mine into my beloved skate skis and have set off into that wintry world. I love to ski! I love the motion, the push off, the great sweeping strides, the way my heart pumps so hard it becomes a song that nudges me forward. I love the way I can think about anything and I do, the long list of what I appreciate, the story I’m writing in my head, the dreams not yet manifested. I love the way that every day is different even when you’re skiing on the same trails. I love to ski in the mornings when the trails are a freshly groomed ribbon of perfection and in the evenings when the sky turns fuchsia and orange and the air is still and it is magic and once you are certain that you heard the swoosh of an owl. I love skiing in November when the snow is slushy and muscles are creaky and the golf course is perfect for practice. I love the holiday skis, those first blizzards when you swish by each other in your cheerful hats and cheerful smiles. I love to ski under a sliver moon in January and on the longer days of February and March with the smell of the first thaws. I love skiing in April with the coyotes and the geese, on the last of the snow’s thin crust. And each time, no matter the season, when I release those skis, I love climbing back into my Subaru, and heading home again, to that inside world, to the warmth of the kitchen – maybe to a pot of piping hot soup and a loaf of fresh bread bought that morning at the local bakery.
This essay first appeared in the Winter 2011-2012 Health and Happiness Magazine.