Early on the morning after the riot at the U.S. Capitol, I ski into the forest along the spine of small mountains that form the ridge just uphill of our home. I ski to a pond, which is little known and lesser visited, and where I’ve decided the ice is thick enough to bear my weight, though I’ll have no proof of this until after I haven’t fallen through. In the photo above, you can see my view from the edge of the pond. That’s looking due east, or maybe just a bit south of that.
It would perhaps better serve my narrative to suggest that I skied into the woods seeking solace from the chaos of the preceding day, but the truth is, I’d done the same two days before, and the day before that, and even the day before that. And so on. I grew up skiing in the woods behind my childhood home, and now I ski in the woods behind my adult home, and it’s no more a means of coping with our nation’s woes than it is the simple force of habit cultivated over more mornings than I can count. Sometimes it’s exhilarating. Often it’s not. Mostly I don’t think about it; I just go.
There are no other tracks in the snow atop the ice. I ski a long loop around the pond’s perimeter and then head deeper into the woods, climbing a steep hill I’ve climbed often enough. I like the trees up here, especially the big yellow birch and old sugar maples, which have rough trunks and crooked limbs that look like arthritic fingers stretching for something just out of reach. At the crest of the hill I stop to consider my options; it’s so quiet that I can hear my own heart, not only in my ears, as usual, but actually through the wall of my chest. That’s what it seems like, anyway.
I miss faces, hugs, handshakes. Loud, live music. Anyplace crowded. I finally got myself a real mask, with ear loops and everything, and I’m almost accustomed to it, I almost don’t think about putting it on when I go into Willey’s for a two-inch schedule 40 elbow, wire nuts, and, even though it’s winter, one of those 50-cent creamsicle pops I’ve developed a weakness for. I eat it in the truck on the way home, listening to the radio. Sedition. Coup. Incursion. Inciting. A whole new vocabulary for a whole new way of life.
Back down the hill I fly, past the big trees and their outstretched fingers, then past the pond with the ice I can now prove is thick enough to bear my weight, the wind and the noise of my skis against the snow loud in my ears. The heart sound covered up. The sky still grey but full of light. The day begun in earnest.