Adjusting Your Attitude Is Important, Too,

As I think about preparations for the upcoming Nordic ski season, lots of details come to mind. Fitness of course tops the list. Stepping up my walking and cycling regimen is a must.  Making small incremental increases in intensity and duration and taking appropriate rest days are essential to the senior cross-country skier.

I once read that perfecting one’s XC stride is a lifetime’s pursuit. Now seventy, I still call myself the eternal intermediate skier, and equip and prepare myself accordingly.  

I also try to prepare mentally. These readings help me prepare intellectually and emotionally for a long and lustrous winter. Here’s three:

Cross-Country Cat by Mary Calhoun (1979) with Illustrations by Erick Ingraham.

This charming story follows the adventures of Henry, the lovable, mischievous Siamese cat. He is accidentally left behind at a ski lodge by his human family. Now, he must figure out how to get back to them through deep snow and raging blizzards.  This funny, cute tale which has tickled every child I have ever read it to should be read by every senior skier to their grandchildren.

About Erick Ingraham’s illustrations, Publisher’s Weekly wrote, “Competing with the author’s tale in verve and artistry are Ingraham’s snowy scenes in exactly the right shades of blue, sepia and gray, set off by glaring white.”

Henry’s message of persistence in the face of difficulties and challenges spoke to both me and my children but in a quaint and amusing way.  His “stupid cat” chant as he kicked and glided toward his home and human family continues to inspire me when I’m on a long ski trek in the Maine woods, for example. It also inspired our children at the end of a long ski day to stow gear, take showers and finish their dinners before collapsing for the night.  Memories I cherish.

Some of Calhoun’s other titles about the intrepid Henry include:

  • Hot Air Henry
  • High Wire Henry
  • Henry the Sailor Cat
  • Blue Ribbon Henry
  • Henry the Christmas Cat

I strongly recommend as many “Henry” stories on your grandchild book shelf as possible

Cross-Country Skiing: A Complete Guide by Brian Cazeneuve (1995).

The range of topics in this book dazzles.  Through Brian’s work, I first became interested in back-country skiing. He covers basics, gear, weather, technique and more in this thorough work. 

Cazeneuve intersperses his sage advice with lyrical, humorous bits about the sport itself. “Cross-Country skiing, unlike hang gliding, cattle rustling and iambic Swahili, is disproportionately more difficult to perfect than it is to learn.” (p.10).  This tongue-in-cheek advice has helped me laugh at myself when I take a fall and helped me get back up.

Chapter 11, “Going Farther”, promotes taking the kids (and grandkids) on Nordic adventures as well as teaching seniors who may be considering getting back into xc skiing or trying it for the first time.  This book is a must.

Self Renewal by John W. Gardner (1964). 

A psychologist and head of the department of Health, Education and Welfare in the Johnson administration is a personal hero of mine. In this insightful work, Gardner asserts a society’s ability to renew itself hinges upon its individuals. It is the waning of the heart and spirit—not a lack of material might—that threatens American society. He states that “all humans have several key commonalities: They are flexible, eager, open, curious, unafraid, and willing to take risks.” 

With age comes some wisdom. We seniors who continue hit the trails and slopes each winter probably agree with Gardner, “…even the self-renewing person has fixed habits and attitudes, but they are not the sort that interferes with continuous renewal. If the scientist changed his (sic) pipe weekly but never his theories, he would be in serious difficulty. The moral is clear. If we must have continuity in our lives—and we must—let it be of the sort that does not prevent renewal.” (p.130). I know my cross-country ski goals and ambitions must change as I age but the continuity is each winter to renew and go skiing again.

Renewing the heart, mind and spirit are critical to me as the seasons change and we transition to and hope for a snowy winter for kicking and gliding during these incredibly difficult times.

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