Circling

All week I’ve been rejoicing in skiing in circles. Some fifty miles of circles on the cross country trail and most of them on the trail at the little golf course around the corner from my parent’s house here in Laconia, New Hampshire. 

Yes, the snow’s been spectacular, the weather perfect. Yes, the luxury of stepping out the door and soon onto the trail. But its been the joy of what’s happened circling those same small trails, time and again that has been true gift and grace.  

Earlier this winter there I was in Bethesda, Maryland circling the lane at the outdoor pool. I delighted several times each week stepping outside to walk to the pool, barefoot and shivering, my towel draped around my neck, putting on my swim goggles and sitting at the edge of the pool, calves in warm water (yes, the outdoor pool was heated!) and then jumping in to circle, back and forth, up and down the lane.  

There’s something about the slow circling of the cross country ski trail, the same lane at the pool, that I  find so freeing.  

But like all journeys, circling takes its own time. 

When I start circling the same trail through the woods or lane at the pool, I watch my mind and memory often trace back to the past, back to a stuck place or decision, a question or query. 

How many times in my life have I circled problems to no avail. Circled solutions I was unable to see. I’ve known the fixation of believing that if only I circled that stuck place one more time I’d be able to see my way through. Yes, I’ve known the obsession of my over-thinking, wanting to fix everything fixation! Often I’ve had to remember time and again that its been stepping away, getting outside for a walk around the block and one more time again, that I’ve been able to be freed to see “the problem” or myself, or my place and role, in a new and clearer way. 

Yes, there’s something about the physical act of circling that helps me find a way when there is no way. 

As I circle the ski trail, swim laps in the pool, I find that the interior, mind-fixing and obsessing noise increases for a while, and with it, at times, the intensity of that stuck place or memory. But keeping at it, keeping circling, something else happens and there’s this opening.  

It’s like the shades have been pulled away, it’s like I see. I notice the tree, the blue sky, the sun lighting up the tops of the trees across the forest. I see the sun glistening now off the snow that I notice is quite icy. As I circle, I still, I quiet. I breathe. I’m in awe at the wonder that I’m breathing and that I do it most of the time without my even noticing. I feel the bite of the wind, look up and notice that there’s a sky overhead and there are grey clouds moving slowly above me.

And then in the face of everything that can never be fixed and will never be solved, amidst all my little obsessions and worries, there is this slide of the ski. There is this stilling to sky. And it is more, so much more than enough. 

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