I am cross-country skiing across a field of sparkling white snow. The sky is a wash of blue watercolour, dotted with clouds and drenched in sunlight. The evergreen trees provide a canopy overhead as I push along down the trail. It is a glorious day. I want to soak this all in, this seeming quiet solitude, wherein woman meets nature.
Except for the small fact that I am not woman alone. Behind me, lying with his back on the ground whilst still attached to skis, is my son. He is moaning about the fact that we took the long course, and how much further will it be until we are back at the ski shop? I try to put the contrary sounds I hear coming from his direction right out of my mind, pushing on in spite of his angst. All the while, I am expounding the benefits of nature and the wonder of the pristine trail before us. He is not buying it. About the second hill, neither am I.
I have managed to do the snow-plow stop for each and every slope I encounter, enabling me to also feel a sense of pride. He assures me that cross-country skiing is much easier than downhill skiing, and that the fact that I have not yet fallen is really no major achievement. He says this because he has been downhill skiing once and is now an expert. I have been reduced to a ninny on planks holding onto two telephone poles as ski supports.
Yes, this is the life.
We come upon a straight-away, and my son notices a speed sign. “We can only go 30 km/h. That’s okay; we’re only going about five,” he remarks. I say nothing for a minute, thinking he is joking about the slow rate we had undertaken thus far, due to all the stops and starts. As well as to his general disinterest in doing what he considers to be the long trail. I turn around, and look at him. “That’s the speed for snowmobiles,” I emphasize. “Oh,” he says, not a trace of sarcasm in his voice. As if to say that we might very well encounter a particularly peppy skier en route who just might happen to have jet engines hidden inside his ski boots. I hide a smile.
The Bible talks about our lives being like a race. I can totally relate to this one, as anyone who knows me can attest. I am up like a shot in the dark, albeit a canon perhaps rather than a bullet. I am fired up nonetheless. It is a race to the shower, then off to the upstairs bathroom and down the hall to grab the article of clothing closest to my reach inside the closet. The race quickens its pace as I try to pass the baton on to my children encouraging them to join me on the course, they run at a different pace than do I. I lengthen my stride as I round the bend in the first lap, and it’s off to make beds and help children decide outfits for the day. Then, another lap as I leap hurdles to get kids dressed and out the door and off to the various destinations of the day. Sometimes it’s difficult to experience the wonder of it all, the running of the race, I mean. One might say you could even lose the joy, that sense of awe in running the race of one’s lifetime.
So, it was a bit of an exhilaration and a literal breath of fresh air today when I was able to take to the great outdoors and grab a bit of a break from the rat race that we sometimes call life. But isn’t it funny how the race continues even when you think you are on hiatus?
The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favour to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. (Ecclesiates 9:11, NIV) I take from this that we cannot run away from the reality of our life or our destiny no matter what we try to use as an escape. Life has a funny way of catching up to us.
The thing about the race we are called to run, that great race of life, is that we allow our bodies and minds to be present in each moment. Many times, the race will be brutal and each footfall, hard-earned. Those times are many and we should not expect that the race be an easy one. It was never promised to be such. There are other times, when for us, we will be given a second-wind and the race will seem almost effortless. We can run without pain and exertion the course set before us. For other runners, this will be just the time that the race becomes more difficult, and we need to be sensitive to these contenders. We too have found, at points along the way, the race to be difficult; thus, as our raceway has challenged in times past, so will it challenge us again. The race is full of surprises, the greatest of which are those that allow us to joyfully celebrate our victories in overcoming our weaknesses.
We stayed the ski course, he and I, stopping several times along the way to boost morale. It is such an amazing accomplishment to finish the course, when you have questioned whether or not you could even make it around the first bend. We coasted down the last hill, and glided to a stop in front of the ski shop. I almost suggested another round. But as all those who run the race know, a good runner knows when to untie the running shoes and call it a day. Even when those metaphorical running shoes happen to be a sweaty size 7 1/2 ski boot.