[ 19:15 wednesday 22 february – levi, finland ]
i’m with my family in lapland for a week’s skiing to celebrate mum’s sixtieth birthday. the sun peeps above the horizon for seven hours each day, bathing the snow-clad expanse of forest and lake in golden light. on monday the temperature hit twenty-six below zero, cold enough to freeze my eyelashes together.
i’m learning to snowboard, which i never thought i’d do. from birth i had a defect in my knees that periodically caused excrutiating pain. i was a pallid and bookish child. sports like skiing were out of the question and i retreated from sports i might have tried. when i was eighteen i had an operation that fixed my knees. but it took a long time to stop thinking of myself as a cripple. little by little my physical confidence grew and i began to enjoy my corporeal capacities as well as the cerebral ones. i thought it might be too late to start skiing but when mum chose to celebrate her birthday this way i wanted to try.
i’ve been throwing myself into it with all guns blazing. each day i accomplish something that seemed impossible the day before. i’m learning in a group of teenagers which sets a brisk pace.
my progress suffered a jolt this afternoon when i took a hard fall and got myself concussed. standing at the foot of the piste it slowly dawned on me that i had no idea how i got there or, more problematically, where i lived. the row of houses and restaurants seemed vaguely familiar but i couldn’t pin down anything specific. my heart was pounding. a boy tapped me on the arm and handed me my goggles. i saw my instructor and hailed him. he said something and it jogged my memory, returning my chalet’s location to mind. i thanked him and gratefully made my way home.
it was a strange experience, a reminder how fragile our perceived realities are. i was quite frightened and felt anxious about the prospect of snowboarding again. but after sitting quietly for an hour and drinking several cups of tea i pulled my skiing clothes on again and went straight back to the piste. i knew if i didn’t get back out immediately i might never overcome my nerves. i took the lift up and boarded down three times without incident. that’s all i needed to get my confidence back.
i think you either confront your fears directly or you become a slave to them.