My family and I have been skiing up in Vermont this week. Totally lucked out with weather – temps have creeped up from the single digits that they were a mere week ago (Thank God!), and it has snowed pretty steadily since we have been here, giving us the opportunity to enjoy what we New Englanders call “Powdah” days. (At least “real” New Englanders. People in my area of Southwestern Connecticut, which my Bostonian parents do not consider “real” New England but rather, an outpost of New Yawk, lack that quaint accent.)
Every time I visit Vermont, I am reminded of how much I LOVE it here. So rejuvenating. So pretty. So relaxing. So clean. Only two states away from where I live, and yet a different world entirely.
I have skied out in Western US, and it is amazing. The massive mountains,the deep powder, the wide bowls – in a word, the ski areas out west are Awesome. Skiing in Vermont and elsewhere in New England is quite different (and not just the bitter temps, gray skies and regular presence of “frozen granular” conditions on the trails, which is the term that some marketing gurus thought up for sheets of ice). For the most part, you are below the tree line in New England, and the trails are carved out of wooded areas, so you are surrounded by trees as you ski down the slopes. Where the West has a powerful awesomeness, Vermont has a gentle prettiness. The snow-frosted evergreens that line the trails look like images on a Christmas Card and lend a sense of peace and solitude to your runs, especially on an uncrowded trail.
My husband and I found ourselves on one such uncrowded trail this morning while our kids were in ski school. It has been at least 12 years since my husband and I have gotten to ski by ourselves – just the two of us- and the fact that we have been able to do that this week has made the vacation just that more special (and truly, it has been a pretty kick-ass vacation in all respects.) So, my husband and I found this pretty little narrow, winding trail from the top of the mountain this morning. From almost the very top until nearly the bottom, we were the only two people on the trail. It was so peaceful. Midway down, I stopped by the side of the trail and waited for my husband, who had stopped uptrail to adjust his boot.
While waiting, I noticed something. It was completely silent. Not just quiet, but silent. No noise. Nada, nothing, nil. The recent snowfall had left the trail powdery and soft, and the trees looked like they were covered in icing. No breeze, no people, no animals to create noise. Either there were no other trails nearby, or there were no people on them, because I could not hear a single sound. Nothing. It was probably the most peaceful few moments I have had in years; maybe ever. I didn’t realize until that moment how noise enters my brain almost every single moment of every single day. When I’m home alone, there is always still something – passing cars, leaf blowers, dogs barking – that creates noise. Even heating systems, air conditioning and appliances generate a subtle hum. I seriously cannot remember the last time I heard nothing.
It was magical. It was fleeting, which made it that much more special. I think I actually felt my body relax and blood pressure drop. It occurred to me that this is the feeling that people describe achieving through meditation. And though I have never been successful at ohhhming, meditating or any other zen-inspired activities, if this is what you get, I’m giving it another try.