Sunday, March 12, 2017

Another Way of Seeing

If you were at the Ozbaldy last weekend, either as a racer or a volunteer, you saw the blind skier Maya Jonas and her guide Anne Egger making their way around the course.  Maybe you, like me, were curious about how that was working.  Anne had a headset and a microphone that she spoke into, and a little speaker in the small of her back that Maya could listen to.  Anne's job was to keep talking the whole time, whether giving commentary on the trail ahead or just talking about life, so that Maya could tell where she was and follow her.  She had never skied more than 5k before, and she finished two laps of the race course for 20k.  I was so impressed by her courage, and when Anne sent me her beautiful reflections on the day, I asked if I could share them with the blogosphere, and she agreed.

I felt pretty inadequate, overall - learned a lot, would totally do it again, and have bottomless admiration for Maya for skiing all 20 km. Racers were very gracious, skied around us, smiled at my stupid commentary, and offered lots of encouragement. I realized how much of my joy of skiing comes from the visual impressions of blue sky, tall trees laden with snow, sun and shadow. Maya grew up sighted, so I could describe what I was seeing to her and I stopped worrying about saying things like, "Wow! There's this amazing cloud over the mountains - it's dark gray with white edges and it's billowing over the ridge..."

And I also realized how exhausting it is to not know what's coming, and to start looking at the world as if you don't know whether you will start accelerating or run off the edge or drift to a stop in the next instant. We both got frustrated when I forgot to tell her that I had stopped and she ran into me or when I got too far ahead and one of her skis fell off the edge of the trail.

At the end of the season, starting to grow weary of skiing and the snow, I was reminded of how lovely and unusual our access (in all respects) to Nordic skiing is. I am eternally gratefully that I have two legs and two arms that propel me forward, and after last weekend, I am grateful to see snow against blue sky and to see the trail ahead of me. 

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