November is magic time at our house. Sometime in late October I’ve already started watching the weather forecast at our favourite ski hill, a 45-minute drive away. The accumulation of snow is vital to my well being because that hill opens around the middle of the month.
As the base of snow deepens I get more excited. See, we just plain love to ski. For five months when those long mountain runs are open, we’re in seventh heaven. There is nothing in our lives that fills us so much as skiing. We literally live for it.
My wife talked me into trying it in March of 2006. I was 51 then and too old I thought. It had never seemed like a very Native thing to do and I’d never seen our people represented on national teams or anything. So I’d poo-pooed it for a long time.
But once I took my first lesson I was hooked. I’d been a hockey player for most of my life so I loved the feeling of speed and careening around at full tilt. So learning to fly down a hill was wild and outrageous and just plain fun.
It took a long time to get graceful or at least, something resembling it. But there was also the feeling of being out on the land, the peace and the quiet when we stopped to catch our breaths. That was as magical as the feeling of schussing down the mountain.
I guess, more than anything, it’s the feeling of having discovered something magical together. That’s where the true grace comes. My wife and I took up the adventure of learning to ski together and it became another entry we made into another part of the world, another magical doorway.
That’s the true joy of skiing for me. For five months my wife and I are bound up in something we both truly love – separately and together. It’s an active thing. It involves the land and the world. It involves ritual – we love the ritual of preparation and the journey.
So my ski dreams start early, way before the snow falls. They involve adventure and thrills. But they also involve the look on her face when we climb on the lift for the first trip up the hill. They involve her laughter. They involve the feeling of chasing something grand and wonderful – together.
Richard Wagamese is Ojibway from Wabasemong First Nation in Northwestern Ontario. His latest book, Him Standing, is available in stores now. Trade Paperback ISBN 1459801768