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Friday, February 26, 2010: An Extrovert and an Introvert go Cross Country Skiing


  It seems a perfect day to go cross country skiing. There has been no wind; snow is piled thick, outlining the oak and cherry branches, spreading heavy lace across the pine boughs.

         ‘Getting out in nature’ means different things to an introvert and an extrovert. To R. (the extrovert) it is an excuse for a strenuous workout in natural surroundings, a change from working out in a pool or on a handball court. His focus is always about how efficiently he moves his body, how much he pushes his endurance.

         My husband’s patience and his willingness to move at my speed when we venture out together is what eventually turned me into a biking enthusiast (who I must say now pushes him to go faster and further). Today, he is overly anxious that skiing be a good experience for me. R. has been out for several trial runs up the driveway to determine the best ski wax.

         His hopes of turning me into a cross country skier compete with the winter inertia that usually keeps me indoors. If I’m going to venture out in winter it will be to run errands, shovel, or take photographs.

         I’m still getting the feel of skis when my husband skis up behind me, encouraging me to go ahead so he can critique my style (I haven’t been skiing for thirty years). Is he kidding? I have no intention of becoming a serious skier. I’m only out here on skis because I can bring my camera, because I’ve exhausted photo options within walking distance of the cabin.

         Is R. frustrated that my first stop is barely a hundred yards down the trail?  My husband must see me as a proverbial three-year-old, complicating even this simple excursion by stopping every few minutes to look at angles and patterns, strange knots in trees and dried remnants of summer weeds. He gives up and takes the lead.

          Cross country skiing turns into an intense upper body workout: either I’m terribly out of shape or I’m too dependent on poles to propel myself forward. It doesn’t take long before I hear my husband grumbling about the wax choice: temperatures are rising too quickly; the snow is too wet; we really needed Klister wax to keep our skis from slipping so much on the snow. There is none back at the cabin, so we forge ahead. 

          Before long, I’ve stopped to marvel at an older stand of plantation pines, planted in methodical straight rows. Every other row has been cut down and if I stand in line with a row of neat, four-inch stumps then the pines on either side form a deep V stretching into the distance. I snap multiple shots, knowing R. will wait along the path once he realizes I’ve fallen behind…again. I eventually catch up with him, and realize he’s picked his resting point carefully.

          “See here,” he says. “Tracks of a ruffed grouse. I’d know them anywhere. They’re about the size of a chicken’s print, but see how the tail feathers drag through the snow.”

           Yesterday I’d photographed snow prints of turkey, deer and opossum for the grandkids.  I take a few shots of grouse tracks and am just starting to put my camera away when R. sets off aggressively, eager to get in his exercise. I have two choices. I can try to keep up with my husband, focusing my attention just on the trail before me, my movement and keeping my balance, or I can spend time outdoors---my way. 

          As an introvert, do I really need to think about the choice? I delight in recognizing the heads of dried wildflowers poking out of the snow, remnants of plants I learned to identify last summer. I notice a large stand of Common Mullein, their tall stalks browned and crusty but still towering above the snow.  In the spring these three to five foot stalks will be replaced with new growth, but now I am curious how this process will take place. Will I find dried stalks lying on the ground? I make a mental note to check this out next spring.

          I catch sight of a red-tailed hawk flying down a creek bed and wonder if it will circle back over the field ahead where R. might notice it. I take delight in the deeply rusted metal drums someone uses for burning trash, in the variations between the deer blinds I pass. The snow isolates lines and colors; it forms strange new shapes. I stare out over a white canvas, sparsely accented here and there with abstract slashes and splashes of muted color.

          My husband and I come back together at the road, staying relatively close as we move along the river edge. Back at the cabin, R. comments that his upper body got much more of a work-out than he’d anticipated. He sounds disappointed with today’s ski run, but I suspect the comment is more for my sake.

         “Cross country skiing is not supposed to be that difficult.”

         I’m appreciative: without the comment I would have lamented even more the fatigue in my triceps. I exercise enough to avoid bat wings. If I keep up with skiing would it finish toning my sixty-year-old arms? At my age, is it worth the effort?

         R. gets on-line to order some Klister, to prepare for the next winter weekend at the cabin. I sit down at the table to review and crop camera shots. Even in the post-skiing quiet, we drift toward our separate approaches to life---extrovert and introvert.

         Tonight we will sit by the fire and read. He will most likely read scientific journals with documented facts and peer-reviewed conclusions; I will work on my book club’s fictional selection, prose that sings of human emotions and relationships. We will be a couple, together in separate worlds.

Posted on Friday, February 26, 2010 at 07:21AM by Registered CommenterThe Skeptical Mystic | CommentsPost a Comment

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