A beach read night on the cross-country trail

Beach readn. “a book you can take on holiday, which is good enough to keep you engaged but not so serious it will spoil your holiday.” (See list)

Nirvana, right? Well, even in the depths of January, I discovered that beach read state can be achieved. On cross-country skis, of all things.

A couple weeks ago I attended an event called She Skis. It’s designed to get women outdoors and active in winter by offering a supportive, non-competitive environment for cross-country skiing. I’ve wanted to try it for the last few winters, but couldn’t fit it in the schedule until this month.

It was a glorious evening. Good skiing conditions, friendly folks, and refreshments afterward. But the best part was that the night was 100 percent expectation-free. My heart was as light on that trail as the snowflakes that blanketed it, as light as it is immersed in a good book with my toes dug in the sand.

That’s a rare state for me, a fact I only became aware of while watching the other women in my class. We’d ski a ways down the trail while the instructor watched, then regroup for his feedback. At every single stop, this one woman would ask questions. A lot of questions. What was the right angle for her pole? What was the etiquette when an oncoming skier approached? Nitty-gritty questions that frankly pretty much monopolized the instructor’s time and attention.

As I listened, it hit me: Most of the time, I am that woman. In any kind of class or audience setting, I’m nearly always the first to raise my hand. And raise it and raise it and raise it again.

That’s partly due to my reporter training. Asking questions reinforces new information. It’s how I learn, how I discern the important from the extraneous. But it’s also because I’m so invested in not only discovering the answer, but the right answer. Often I’m asking these questions in meetings with therapists and/or school officials involving my son. The stakes feel extraordinarily high. Others in the meeting have more experience at this than I do, with other kids. By asking questions I’m trying to get myself up to their speed. After all, I can’t do this over. He’s only going to be seven, eight, nine once. I feel like I’ve got to get it/fix it/make it right, right away.

Or else it’s a writing situation. I’m a first-time novelist. I want to do this author thing right, somehow secure my future. Once again, I’m tremendously invested in a particular outcome. But I have no agent, the standard guiding figure for an author, plus the publishing industry is in major turmoil. So at workshops, on blogs, at parties I ask questions, searching for anchors in the answers.

She Skis was an antidote. I was engaged, enjoying the evening, but I had no investment in the outcome. I didn’t care if I skied faster or better, what I looked like or what anyone else thought. I wasn’t worried that what happened that night would send consequences reverberating through my life years down the road. If the rest of my life is a deep, dense, literary novel, She Skis was a beach read, albeit in 20-degree weather. It was delightful. I’ll be going back for a sequel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *