The last two mornings I woke up on my parent's blue tweed couch, wrapped in the blue blanket I got for Christmas. I have always slept on the couch during periods when I haven't been able to sleep; when I have needed to know that morning would come quickly, light passing in early through the living room windows. If I sleep on the couch, I receive permission for the night to be done at 6:30 a.m.
Just after the permission begins to rise in the east, my dad comes into the kitchen. He always seems surprised to see me sleeping there--even though for some time in the 10th grade, the couch was my bed almost every night. My eyes are already open, but I don't move my body from dead man's pose. "Hi," I say. "Good morning," he says, and we talk about how the morning will go: breakfast, then cross-country ski to Starbucks to pick up my car where I'd forgotten it the day before, drive home, shower, and then go into town to run errands.
"It's swirling around us," my dad says, referring to the snow coming down outside. The roads will require bravery when we drive on them, I think. I look out to the porch and see a pot of chili that my mom placed there the day before--an alternative kind of refrigeration. There are 6 inches of new snow sitting on the pot's lid, which is how I know we will need to be brave when driving.
My dad and I get dressed in our ski gear and then I do something very unclassy: I reheat coffee from the day before, pour half a glass and make myself drink it. I hate every second of it and vow not to do that again.
Outside the snow is coming down hard and I am so happy about it. One thing I am learning about myself: I really enjoy physically hard things, being exposed to the elements, and persevering through them. I would say I am not in any kind of amazing physical shape. In fact, I hate lifting weights and so my arms are only toned to the degree that hugging, carrying my books, and moving furniture can tone ones arms. I do like to run and walk though and probably use my legs more than the average person, but I have never in my life run more than 10 miles. And the time I ran 10 was nearly four years ago and it was not my idea. I would say I am an average body with a enduring spirit.
After we've strapped on our gear and skied a few hundred yards, I can see that it will be a hard six miles to Starbucks--not only because of the wild, whipping weather, but because the thick, fresh snow is sticky, clinging to the bellies of our skis. After a mile or so of hard plodding, we stop on a rural farm road next to a fold of wooly sheep whose bellies are also collecting snow. My dad has an idea and tilts his ankles, leaning his skis on their side, telling me to run the bottoms of mine across the edges of his, scraping the sticky ice and snow free. This is a good trick, I think. We reverse the roles and both travel much faster from then on.
The landscape of my home in Washington is really something else! And I would like to know it better. I am determined to be an expert on a place someday--perhaps even this place, I think. We pass one farm house encircled by the winter skeletons of a dozen or so fruit trees. My dad tells me that they belonged to Mrs. Christensen who, for years and years wouldn't trim her trees until winter--until the snow drifts had piled feet high around the tree trunks and she could just march on up the drifts to cut back the branches. Those are the kind of details that tell me something, I think. But I know the only way we get to know those most telling things is by braving winter ourselves, getting out there to ski over the land we want to know, plodding through and crossing the drifts ourselves. (This is why I love immersion writing--stepping into the shoes of another person.)
Once we reach the main road in town we end up skiing on the snow berm made by the city snow plow. It's just us and the cars out there and I feel like what we are doing is, although perhaps unusual, very appropriate. The snow is mounding everywhere and driving seems more ridiculous than skiing.
When we arrive at Starbucks there are small drops of melted snow hanging from my dad's earlobes and another drop hanging from my chin--we are wet through and through. The snow is still coming down hard and I am still so happy about it. We go inside and order lattes, proud of ourselves for making it all the way there. However, I'm not fooled into thinking my body is excellently above average or incredibly amazing because of our accomplishment. Instead, I'm reminded of the hope-inspiring fact that an enduring spirit helps average bodies arrive.