Original Work

View from a mountaintop

A Ski Destination of the Heart

by Michael Goldman

I can understand the practicality of cross-country skiing. I mean, if the neighboring village were running low on a crucial medicine, or if the tribe were running out of meat and the nearest caribou herd were 5 miles away, I would be the first to don my skis. But to flail across an icy lake, parts of my body soaked in sweat while other parts are either frozen numb or dessicating in the bitter wind, is not my idea of recreation.

Granted, I was raised in a warm, flat town in Southern New Jersey. Only once each winter I was coerced into visiting a single-slope ski hill where I wedged frankenstein boots onto my feet, took a lesson, and spent the rest of the day reading in the warm lodge. Since then I have always considered skiing a form of punishment.

I evaded skiing nearly my entire life, until now, except for a single instance at college in New Mexico. My college girlfriend convinced me it would be fun to spend an afternoon on borrowed skis from the college. All I remember from that day is a flash of red poles and falling multiple times down a hill. I put it behind me until today.

You see, my wife is Scandinavian. Every winter of her childhood, she was taken on long cross-country ski vacation to northern Norway. They rode a caterpillar tractor loaded with gear and provisions to a cabin above the timberline, from where they would ski the fjelds to their hearts’ content. So, of course, she owns skis and has gone out cross-country skiing, usually alone, every winter of our life together.

But then the week before Valentine’s Day, she gave me a knowing look and asked if I would join her on a long weekend of cross-country skiing at an outdoor center. I knew that any hesitation to answer on my part would be fatal, so I leaped in with a quick assent that, of course I would go with her and give it a try.

So she booked the room and, when the day came, we drove the four hours north to the outdoor center. She rented skis for me and signed me up for a lesson, which I guess I passed, since they let me keep the skis for rest of the day. In the afternoon, she and I ended up on a trail along a frozen lake in bright sunshine on deep packed powder, gliding along side by side. I fell (only) three times. Most of my body was soaked with sweat, except for the few extremities that were frozen in the negative wind chill.

As the path turned away from the lake towards the road and our warm room, I looked over at her. The bright sun was over her shoulder, shining down over the white expanse of the lake. The dark pine trees behind her were layered with white snow and her pink cheeks were round and smiling as she said simply, “Thank you.”

First published by the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Feb., 2015

Late Winter, Potting

by Michael Goldman

It is zero degrees out
and I am filling my seed trays
I have sent off the queries
and manuscripts
to places even colder
pent up energy
propels me through the empty house
looking for useful activities
There is twenty inches of rimey snow outside
hard enough to dent one’s ideals
inside I am handling dry soil
individual seeds
that have laid patiently in their paper
they think spring is coming
it is all they think of

I level the soil knowing
that without me
there is no hope for them
even with me
their future
looks precarious

Originally published in The Fourth River, April 2015, p.85

The Cold

by Michael Goldman

I go ice fishing
in the hole of my childhood
and reel in
empty hooks

Published in the 2014 fall issue of Poet Lore

Music CD:  Tell them today

By Michael Goldman


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