Trails

18 Feb

Today, after work,  a combination of favourable conditions compelled me out of the house, into the milky, late January afternoon light, and into my old, well used pair of skis which I took out into the adjacent farmers fields for some much needed exercise.

I began by seeking out the trail that ran along the fence line, and which further up joined with the road the farmer used to access his fields in the other seasons.

I had cut this trail a few days before, and, though it was still visible, I noticed that the wind and brief snowfall from the night before had taken the crispness out of the edges of the tracks, even causing them to disappear in some spots.  But I also noticed that that same wind and snow had gracefully softened the broken lines and other evidences of my off-balance, jerky lunges.

I was happy that the trail remained, and that I didn’t have to cut it anew today; only follow it and reinforce the work I had done already.  I took comfort in the fact that, even before I began, I knew where the trail was going to take me, and how long it would be before I returned to this spot.

There are days when I prefer to ski on the already groomed trails in the Provincial Park. The slick, machine-made inverted rails that cut through the plantation seem to secure my skis to the ground, reinforcing my balance and producing more assured, deliberate strides.

But I also like my own trails, here in my extended backyard. I take a certain pride in them, in the work that is required to create them, and the relative smoothness and straightness of them, regardless of their faults.  I know I can always come back to them, and reinforce them, and smooth them out, as long as the wind and snow stays away.

My trail followed around the edges of the farmers fields, a short distance off of the tree lines that defined the fields’ size and shape.   I always ski around the edges, out of the wind, never cutting across fields, or taking shortcuts around corners, except to circumvent the rougher patches of earth, caused by the sharp cuts of the farmers plows during the fall sod turning, and which even a few feet of snow cannot level out.

The trail works its way through two or three fields of different sizes, and then back toward home. It comes out at the bottom of the hill, at the foot of the  snow covered gravel driveway which weaves its way up to the house, a few hundred yards away.

Stopping for a moment before beginning the ascent, I feel the dull aches and pains in my back and arms, and briefly regret my inconsistent and inconsiderate pacing that is at least partially responsible for them.

Pushing off, I notice in the light coating of snow on the driveway, a set of small boot prints.  They belong to my daughter, who only an hour or so earlier had made her way up this same hill after getting off the bus.

The trail of boot prints wind their way up the driveway, although the path they take is anything but clear or deliberate. The boot tracks travel all over the driveway, at points heading up in to the snowbanks on either side, and then leaving marks where she playfully jumped off the small cliffs onto the frozen dirt and snow below.  About halfway up, there was evidence that she must have stopped, and turned around, and looked down the driveway, and stood there for a moment before turning around and heading back up again.

Skiing along beside her tracks, I watch them, following them along their course.  I study their direction, the pacing, the stops and starts.   I read them as though they are were an entry in a diary, telling intimate details of my daughters day. In my mind I watch her as she dances this inimitable carefree dance of youth and beauty and innocence, and I ache for her, wishing it were possible for her to never forget the steps, to never lose the movements and rythms, but knowing all to well that that day will not be too long in arriving.

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