An encounter with a serow

I glanced up the hill, then back down at my line through the trees. I wanted to make sure the ski patrol or any other officials were not in sight: I could be thrown out of the resort for skiing under fences. The snow was picture perfect. I could not resist. Yes it was dangerous; stupid, some might say. To ski alone is unwise. To ski alone off-piste could lead to serious trouble. To ski alone off-piste, in an unknown resort in a foreign country through trees in near white-out conditions during a snowstorm, well, you get the idea. I calculated the risk I was taking. I squeezed my poles tight in my fists, ducked under, and pushed off.

Oh! that first turn. True powder skiing is nothing less than floating through air. Effortlessly I made a second and a third, my mouth catching the snow that flew up from my skis — but I couldn’t close it over my grin. I heard my boy-laugh. Then I started thinking again. I knew I had to hang right. I put in a couple sweeping turns, applying a bit more pressure with each. Then, squinting and aghast, I slammed my skis though the thick pillows into a hockey stop and everything — but for the heartbeat in my ears — went quiet. These four beasts stood before me. What were they? Stout and grey-brown with little horns and bigger ears they stood there, furrily. Full of apprehension at these solid mirages, I clacked my poles. That sent three of them trotting off into the silent whiteness. The fourth remained, steadfast, looking me straight in the eye.

In that moment of his gaze I understood something. I understood that there is a place for me on this incredible little planet. Somehow I can be a mathematician and a skier. A writer and a yogi; sensible and drunken. I stared into the eyes of the serow, and he stared back into mine, and under those ancient white trees, everything just fit.

Now, back in the world of red buses, grey skies and desktops, I have that moment. In times of doubt, it really helps. It is the reminder that beauty is everywhere; it is the reminder that “good enough” can expand way beyond us and fill out over our horizons. It allows me to lay down my head lightly on my pillow, tired and fulfilled and hopeful.

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