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Matt Dickerson: Thoughts on snow, skiing and love

My wife, Deborah, and I celebrated St. Valentine’s Day last week by going cross-country skiing together up at the Rikert Nordic Center in Ripton. It was our 29th Valentine’s Day since we got married, and our 30th together counting the February when we were engaged and planning our wedding.
That seems like a lot of Valentine’s Days. I’m not sure how I got old enough to have had so many. I probably shouldn’t admit this since Deborah usually reads my columns, but I don’t even remember all of them. I don’t know how many times we have gone out cross-country skiing on Valentine’s Day. I’m sure it is fewer than 30, but equally sure it is more than one. I can remember a couple years when we skied around the base of Romance Mountain at Blueberry Hill Inn as the appropriate course for the day.
This year it was not a tough decision. We woke on Feb. 14 to a lovely fresh layer of snow on the ground — the deepest layer we’d had all year. And if current weather forecasts hold, it is likely to be the deepest of the 2016-2017 winter.  We have learned, lately, not to take snow for granted. Some years it comes and stays, and we delight in it for weeks on end. We make great use of our season’s cross-country ski passes and the snow banks I labor to build on our sledding hill. But those years seem fewer and fewer. Other years it’s here and then it’s gone, like a hatch of mayflies, or the foliage on the maple in the yard, or the sap run, or the spring peepers, or the cleanliness of the floor just after mopping and before the dog walks through, or the cleanliness of the yard just after raking and before the afternoon winds. Or like romance itself.  It’s good not to take anything for granted, and to work hard to protect what you have that is valuable, or to delight in what you have that is fleeting.
So we threw our skis in the back of the Subaru and headed up to Ripton. We couldn’t have asked for better conditions or more beautiful woods to glide quietly through. It was like being on a honeymoon. Everything is perfect. Life has no troubles. We skied trails we hadn’t been able to ski all year because of the lack of snow, including looping out along Holland and the recently redesigned Frost trail past the new Burgin Lodge. We passed a few other skiers — some we knew and some we didn’t recognize, but all of whom seemed as joyful as we were to be out there on such a thick white blanket.
Fresh snow is like fresh mulch. It covers up a lot of mud and scars and ugliness. It’s a bit like love itself. A first-century Christian writer named Peter wrote the following command in a letter to the Christian church: “Love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” Forgiveness is like that also — like love and snow and fresh mulch.  Whereas romance, like snow, is often fleeting, love is permanent.
Cross-country skiing may be the thing that keeps me from taking snow for granted. But love is the thing that keeps us from taking romance for granted — the thing that makes it fall fresh again the following week, or the following winter, when it seems to have melted.
I don’t know how many times I’ve skied on Valentine’s Days past, but I have a pretty good idea how many times I will ski on future Valentine’s Days. The answer is, every one that I can.

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