Winter is slowly making its presence known here in northwest Montana. Snow-capped mountains surround the valley where I live, gently warning those of us down below that the snowline is beginning to make its way to us. It won’t be long before the streets, our neighborhoods, and the playgrounds will be blanketed in white.
Sunday my husband and I gathered our skis and all the gear we needed for an afternoon on the ski mountain. The ski resort is still closed, which for us is not a problem; we don’t need the ski lift to get up the mountain – we climb it. Our A.T. skis are equipped with special bindings that allow our heels to move up and down as we climb, but when we are ready to ski down, they can be adjusted to lock our boots firmly in place. On the bottom of our skis are removable “skins” that grip the snow so we don’t slip as we climb, and are peeled off once we reach the summit for a smooth descent.
I decided last winter after seeing the large number number of people – many far older than me – climbing up the mountain and skiing down. I thought if they could do it, so could I! Sunday was my first time skinning up, and it was supposed to be a day shared with my brother, who was my husband’s skinning partner last winter.
I missed my brother yesterday. It was the 6-month mark of his sudden & unexpected death, which made the day full of his presence. When the hill got steep and I began to tire, I imagined him just ahead of me, encouraging me in the climb. As I began my descent, I could see him just ahead of me, laughing and shouting his excitement in being back on the mountain, doing what he loved so much.
I certainly didn’t have my brother’s beautiful form while making my way down the mountain, but I know he was watching me, smiling as his little sister attempted a graceful decent.
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