I spent a lot of this winter thinking about skiing. This is unusual because I’ve never skied, despite having grown up in the shadow of central Massachusetts’s main ski locales, Mount Wachusett (I hesitate to call it a mountain, because I’ve been repeatedly informed by friends from other states that it doesn’t “count” as one, but that’s its name). What I know about skiing is mostly gleaned from seeing people stop by the Dunkin Donuts I worked at on their way to or from the Mount, and from the kids in my Catholic elementary who used to get bused there after school one day a week in the winter.
I’ve never been skiing, have always been too afraid of snapping both my legs or hitting a tree to try, but I’ve been thinking a lot about it this winter. One of the elaborate Macy’s windows I walk by every day to work was festooned in Ralph Lauren, country club-chic through the holidays, complete with bulky ski boots for the mannequins. So, I thought about the idea of being in a barely-controlled downhill slide as I walked to work every day for two months. 2019 was a lot like skiing.
The year started at the summit, the kind of moment made for describing as highlight of your life, the sort of thing Instagram was invented for; I said yes to a ring in a park full of string lights on trees. I was in grad school, I had a fresh new job, I had the components of long-term happiness in the 21st century. But the skis were already on.
The thing about having a year that slides from wonderful to terrible in this way is that there’s not one moment where you can see everything pivot to bad, it’s all an accumulation, all building momentum. One day leads into the next with everything deteriorating as a result of whatever happened the day before. There was arguing that built on arguing, stress from arguments leading to resentment, to different goals, to different plans, to different views, to different people. Everything whizzed past in a blur, from holidays and conventions to mundane daily rituals. Before I realized that I didn’t know how to put the breaks on it all, it was over. By September I was at the bottom of the slope, in a heap, and the future I had seen for myself at the top of the year was lost in the trees down here.
I didn’t break my legs though. I didn’t hit a tree. I made it down the steep slope of 2019 in one piece physically, if not emotionally. By the time Macy’s put up those holiday windows I was standing, shakily, and brushing off the snow…in the metaphorical sense anyway. We didn’t get much snow in New England this year, just another harbinger of the end of all things that hasn’t made it any easier to be hopeful about things. I spent most of the cold, windy, dry season inside with a new cat with a bad attitude and an ominous name.
I don’t think I’ll ever go skiing. It’s not the environment for me. I’d rather spend more winters with warm blankets and hot beverages and, if I ever feel compelled to be at the top of a mountain, I’ll take a ski lift there and back. For now, though, spring is coming in increments, as we have a few days here and there where the temperatures creep towards the 50s and we all lose the looming sense that we could get buried under a foot of snow at any moment. I’m starting to venture out of the house more after work, wandering the squares of Cambridge again to get to rehearsals and meetings, appointments and coffee dates, quick runs to pick up comic books or trading cards. Persephone purrs where she sleeps, sprawled across my chest in the sunlight of our bedroom window, which comes earlier now, and I’m going to metaphorically snowshoe away from the ski slope, leave 2019’s metaphorical skis behind.