Posted by: Kara Luker | December 28, 2010

Just as it should be

A beautiful day to go sledding

And My people will be satisfied with My goodness, declares the LORD. Jeremiah 31:14

The tiredness of the past month collapsed on me today like a mighty avalanche. During lunch, while trying to keep my twitching eyes open, I read a winter survival tip that recommended on such an occasion (as being struck by an avalanche) to make continuous swimming motions. Life application would suggest that I keep moving lest I succumb to the weight of fatigue. Or, maybe, I should just get more sleep.

Yesterday was divine. We gathered up a collection of snow gear from our suitcase and Michael’s winter bin, sleds of different shapes and sizes from the garage, and some snacks for the road. The car was warmed up, we had coffee in hand, and were heading out the door when Aksel decided he needed to use the bathroom. The rest of us sat there bundled up, waiting awkwardly, in a paused moment of enthusiasm. After an extended period of small talk, Aksel emerged, we headed out to the Matrix, and our big adventure resumed.

The car ride was filled with lots of joy and a bit of nervous anticipation. It has been warmer than usual and there was a nagging thought that there just might not be enough snow to go sledding…which could deflate the fun of a sledding trip in a hurry. As we wound up the mountain road, we shouted excited reports of snow patches on the roadside or rooftops. It wasn’t enough to instill full confidence, but a definite encouragement as we measured our possible success.

We drove past quaint cabins that lined the river, offering a cozy place to stay, and odd little shops that offered jerky of the local wildlife. We watched flags flopping around and trees making generous movements, and decided it might be windy. We were not mistaken. But in the warm car, with our happy little crew on our way up the mountain, it didn’t matter too much.

Aksel learned that we’d gone sledding the last winter we were here – without him. He handled it well, considering, and seemed to feel only slightly betrayed. The conversation continued as we passed through the charming town of Estes Park tucked safely in the tall mountains. People waited to cross the street, looking cold and uncomfortable. Michael playfully mocked them for their fashion choices. We stopped to run into some strangely warm bathrooms.

The town ended and we continued on to Rocky Mountain National Park, where there was a deer just off the road waiting to greet us. Michael re-upped his annual pass, was given a map and newspaper (the one that gave me that brilliant survival tip), and asked the old, crusty ranger if there was snow on the sledding hill. His dry, slightly annoyed response of “Yep. Three feet.” made us think that all of humanity had already asked him that question that day. We, perhaps with the rest of humanity, were relieved to hear the answer.

We wound through the peaceful landscape until we arrived at our perfect, snow-covered destination. The temperature dropped significantly as we opened the doors of the cozy car. It was cold, for sure, but not nearly as cold as the last time we were there, without Aksel. And this time there weren’t dark clouds hovering or snow flinging itself from the sky. It was sunny and gorgeous. We ran to the back of the car, grabbed our gear, wrapped ourselves up as best as we could, and headed straight past the warming hut to the hill.

The mountainside was scattered with families and the occasional ranger overseeing the festivities. There was constant movement and color against the white of the snow. Two girls in bright purple and pink spun wildly down the slope on an innertube, flipping over onto the embankment. A small boy in a blue jacket clung to the sides of his orange sled as his dad gave him a push. A teenage boy in gray threw his body onto a saucer and face-planted into the snow as a group of friends looked on and laughed.

We became more color and life on the hill as we made our way to the top and zipped back down to the bottom. We took turns and traded up sleds. And then we did it again. We compared reports of the best sled and the best run. There was nothing too steep or grand but it was sweet and delightful. The wind got rascally, whipping our faces with the top layer of snow to remind us that we were indeed in the mountains. But it wasn’t too persistent and it was a small price to pay.

I sat on the fence at the top, taking in the beauty, watching the light on the surface of the snow, admiring the small, determined evergreen growing under the safety of larger trees. It didn’t last long as I was stirred from my reflection by a big snowball Aksel tossed my way. I grabbed him to ride with me down my favorite run on my favorite sled. It was heavenly.

At a certain point, the crowd grew and we’d had our fun. So we got back into the faithful little car and drove to town, where we braved a brisk walk to the coffee shop (becoming the cold and uncomfortable people with questionable fashion choices) and warmed up on beverages. Our enthusiasm was appropriately drained and a relaxed contentment rose up in its place. The trip back down the mountain was mellow. Our faces got prickly as they thawed, music played, words were few, and the rest of the day seemed to melt away like the snow on the roadside as we headed home, spent and satisfied.

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