Running on Ice
With a walking stick in hand, I struggled to stay upright as we picked our way along the icy trail. The treachery of each step threatened to take my feet out from underneath me. I hugged my winter coat against the stiff winter wind and questioned my decision-making. What other crazy human would attempt this path in these conditions?
The answer bounced around the corner. Like a sure-footed mountain goat, the teenaged boy glided effortlessly across the ice. In nothing more than shorts, a t-shirt, and a pair of running shoes, he jogged as if it was a sunny spring day. He smiled, waved, and uttered a cheery hello, not the slightest hint of being out of breath despite his speed. Nor did he show even a whiff of concern about falling in the treacherous conditions.
How could this kid move so easily over the ice while I grappled for each stride? He passed with no mishap. As the sound of his pounding feet dwindled behind me, I took another tentative step forward. The deep treads of my boot fought for purchase. I grumbled about the unfairness of youth as I slipped and slid my way home.
The snowstorm that hit Asheville a week ago had taken our favored walking trail from us. With four Siberian Huskies in our home, burning their energy is essential for sanity and the structural soundness of the house. A bored Sibe can find amazing ways to keep itself entertained otherwise.
That task was straightforward the day the snow fell. The backyard became their playground. They ran. Played. Wrestled. Chased. Tackled. But by the day after, they tired of the confines and were ready to resume their morning and evening excursions.
Fortunately, the city road crews did a great job attacking the foot of snow that fell. Plows made the first pass on our neighborhood streets as flakes were still falling that first day, so we could resume our walks the morning after.
Unfortunately, the salted roads irritated paws. After each outing, we washed all sixteen feet upon re-entering the house. That didn’t win a popularity contest with the canines, but we did what we had to do. We were all eager, though, to get off the road and back on the trail.
We desperately waited for Mother Nature to provide enough sunshine and above-freezing temperatures to clear our trail. After two days (and sixty -four washed paws), we were all ready to try.
That’s how two nearly sixty-year-olds struggled to remain vertical on ice while attached to four Siberian Huskies who were having no such problem. We inched our way slowly until that prancing teenager, gleefully bounding across the ice, highlighted the problem.
It wasn’t the weather. It was our age.
Our aching muscles didn’t help. Shoveling our driveway took hours. When we moved from the top of a mountain along the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the salt marshes of Murrells Inlet, I sold our tractor and snowblower. Not much use for those things down there. Instead of replacing them when we moved to Asheville, I bought a snow shovel. Clearing the drive was another lesson of the pain of aging.
Not that I need the repeated messages. I had ample evidence from my traitorous body.
My back was first. I had barely entered my forties when I went under a surgeon’s knife for a laminectomy. To avoid a repeat, I now do daily stretching exercises, carefully monitor my form when lifting weight, and have a sit-stand desk in my study. Despite those precautions, I can still be quite stiff and sore.
The back is not alone in its mutiny. My knees can be symphonic in their snap, crackle, and pop. The knuckles of my fingers creak, which is why I alternate between handwriting on an iPad or typing on a keyboard. And, as my ophthalmologist says, my eyes are healthy-I’m just blind.
When did all this happen? I certainly was flexible as a kid.
My teen years as a Boy Scout developed my love for the outdoors, especially hiking and camping, often for days on a trail with only the supplies on my back.
I navigated white water on our many rivers and learned how to stay safe when thrown in the water or hitting rocks. I climbed cliff faces and rappelled back down. I bounced along the tops of trees on high ropes courses, trusting the belay would catch me when the misses happened (and they happened). And, of course, I was often acting as the belay, using my body weight and ropes to catch others as they fell.
Wonder if there is some connection between the adventures of youth and my current physical condition?
The neurosurgeon connected the dots. At the end of my physical therapy after my back surgery, he advised me I was being released from restrictions and could resume all normal activities. He paused, looked me in the eye, and said, “And I mean normal activities.”
Do I regret any of those youthful adventures? Not at all. I wish I had done more.
My business career took me to Adelaide for a project, so I was traveling to Australia every other month. One Sunday morning, I passed on an opportunity to climb to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. A steady drizzle fell from the sky, so I thought I would save that adventure for my next trip. Unfortunately, I never ended up going back to Australia.
I bet the view is amazing from up there-the iconic Sydney Opera House, the calm waters, and the surrounding city skyline.
Alas, that was prior to my surgery and promise to restrict myself to more pedestrian activities. I don’t miss them, nor do I wish to go back to my crazy days of youth. I’m happy with who I am and where I am in life.
But I also wouldn’t tell that jogger to be more careful. Maybe he’s preparing for his own Sydney Harbour Bridge climb. Risk invites bruises, but it also brings joy.
So keep running, kid, even on ice. I don’t wish you the aches and pains of aging, but I wish you the happiness of looking back and smiling at your adventures and misadventures.
Interesting Links: Plagiarism Today
Probably one of those websites only a writer could love, but Plagiarism Today tracks the news on copyright and related violations. It’s one of the website I keep in my Feedly so I never miss a post, such as this story about Winnie-The-Pooh lapsing into the public domain.
Books Read: Razorblade Tears
I read about 100 novels a year and share the best of those with you.
A few months ago, I shared S.A. Cosby’s terrific Blacktop Wasteland with you. I said at the time that he did such a terrific job of capturing life in small town Appalachia and looked forward to reading more and he proved it again with Razorblade Tears.
Vocabulary Word Of The Week: Stola
If you ever gazed on the Statue of Liberty, you have seen a stola-a long draped robe worn by women in Ancient Rome. It’s a free flowing cloth hanging ankle length and cinched at the waist. From the word comes our modern stole which more commonly refers today to a scarf draped over women’s shoulders or a vestment draped over religious figures such as priests.
The corresponding robe worn by men of Ancient Rome is a much more familiar word- toga.
Amusingly, the college tradition of a toga party wouldn’t be entirely accurate nomenclature since women would be wearing stolas.
Gratuitous Dog Picture
As snow melts, only one thing is left behind-mud. When Landon gets the zoomies, he races around the yard at full, reckless speed. And, unfortunately, sometimes his feet get out of control and wipeouts happen. In the snow, it doesn’t really matter, but in mud, it leaves a mark. Yes, the side of his face is the Boom Boom sliding as he rounded a curve. No injury, though it did take him a little effort to remove all of the mud from between his teeth.
Background title image is courtesy Sebastian Pociecha