(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

This season La Niña has given the Colorado Rockies both snow and wind—and the gifts just keep going, even though we are more than halfway through April. After reading predicted wind chill values below zero, Sherman and I hesitated about going skiing—but it was April 15 and the snow was still so good!

At the last minute we bypassed Loveland Ski area, as we saw how the wind was whipping the snow around—there are few trees for wind protection on the slopes we ski and the chairlifts are slow—and continued on toward Copper Mountain.

The wind still blew at Copper and the snow was probably not as deep, but the trees and swift chairlifts provided protection from the surprisingly bitter cold. But the snow was still so good—and, in time, the winds began to feel more spring-like.

What I noticed most, though, had little to do with the snow or weather conditions. No, for the first time this ski season, on this last ski day for me, I finally felt free. The backpack of obligations I’ve worn all season has slipped off.

True, I only skied once before Mom died, but by the time I returned to the slopes in February, our dog Fordham was in deep decline. And, as much as our family enjoyed our March ski trip, we had just lost him, too, and later that week would be saying our formal goodbyes to Uncle Carrell and Mom at their services.

I am no longer responsible for trying to help anyone be comfortable in the ravages of some horrible disease process. Life and death decisions are not part of daily concerns.

After you’ve watched someone suffer long enough, you know you have to let them go. In your heart you begin to wish for them to be free even though there’s not a thing that’s going to free them other than death and its separation from you.

Now that my grief is not quite so fresh and does not weigh heavily on every minute of my day, sometimes I can begin to remember them healthy and whole again.

Frankly, it is only in the last two weeks that I have started to feel some relief from whatever has been bogging me down physically during exercise since around the time my mom had to go into memory care.

You see, I seem to have two ways of responding to stress, depending on whether the stress is immediate or ongoing. When Christiana was in crisis, my appetite for food reduced, but my capacity for pushing my body physically increased. With Mom’s protracted decline, I did more stress-eating and felt drained more often than strong while exercising.

Yesterday, despite all the hard—at least in my mind and muscles—workouts I had this past week, my legs and lungs felt strong. I could forget about trying to stay up and keep going, and just turn more attention into form. Form and joy. I felt as if I were flying, something I haven’t felt at all this year on the slopes.

The snow was so good. And as it turns out, there wasn’t an ill wind, just one that added a lot of color to my cheeks and nose—and encouraged my return to flight.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert