Sunday, January 02, 2005

The Wonderful Physicality of XC-Skiing

Just spent a week in Northern Michigan cross country skiing with friends. How to describe it? I'm not a racer and like the narrow single tracks yet there is still a great joy in the physicality of the experience. Listening to the creak of deep snow under your skis and poles and the sibilant hiss as your skis run downhill brings you into the present as sensations accumulate; feeling warm inside but sensing the chill of the air around your body, noticing the snow fleas coming out of hiding as the snow warms, the stress you feel within your body with heart and lungs and muscles working to achieve a smooth rhythm, all conspires to create an fine intensity of being part of the world around you. In pursuing this sport one realizes that the closeness with the natural world heightens the senses, not only for the practical aspects of noticing the trail and snow conditions and the form and style one brings to the skiing, but also for the sensations of the world; the light under the trees or the muffled sounds carried on the wind. One ends the day tired, perhaps with sore muscles, but greatly satisfied by the journey through the landscape.

This reminds me of the first statement that Joseph L. Sax makes in the appendix of "Mountains Without Handrails"; "The parks are places where recreation reflects the aspirations of a free and independent people." I can"t help but think that this also applies to our recreation choices and am happy that I have chosen to celebrate human powered recreation. While I am often disgusted with motorized recreation, I am actually sorry for those who in their reliance on things other than their own strength and skills actually demonstrate how weak they are.


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