At mass this Sunday, I should have prayed for my legs. I was busy appreciating the church’s beautiful snowy surroundings. I gazed up at the bendy trees and smiled as my feet made crunching sounds on the snow. My heart felt so warm when I saw boy scouts making snowballs and running around the church. Everyone had snow boots and coats on and it felt ever so much like Christmas.
During mass, I thought briefly about how my host parents were taking me cross-country skiing in the afternoon. I thought about when I’d gone cross-country skiing before, at home in Michigan. I looked forward to rosy cheeks, tired legs, and hot chocolate after. I said a little “thank you” to God for my host parents who help me learn about and appreciate every single part of my surroundings. I forgot, however to pray for my legs and arms and feet and hands.
I realized my error the moment I had the skis on my feet. I looked out into the woods and back at my triathlete host father and remembered that I had only gone cross-country skiing once before in my life. I’d done it in Michigan, on flat ground, on light snow. I’m living in a place surrounded by volcanoes, and the snow was very, very wet. I only had time to think, “Please give strength to my legs” before we were off.
When I say “we were off” I really mean that my host parents were off. As far as I can tell, they are masters of le ski de fond and their legs are made of pure steel. My host mother is graceful and beautiful and when she skied, her legs moved so quickly. They bent and straightened and pushed her forward like she was in a commercial. My host father was so fast. It was like he wasn’t even touching the ground.
I noticed all of this because I was consistently far, far away from my host parents. I was behind them, often face down in the snow. Sometimes they waited for me to catch up, and then I’d end up yards behind them, face down in the snow again.
While my host father was waiting for me at the top of a hill, he took this charming video. He narrates in French. Notice my host mother’s grace. Notice how my host father says, “Kelsey isn’t going to fall.” Then notice how I fall.
So, okay, le ski de fond in France wasn’t exactly what I’d imagined. Though, to be fair, my cheeks got pretty rosy and my legs were exhausted. In fact, they’re still exhausted. Falling and getting back up again is hard work. More importantly, the surroundings really were beautiful. Right away, we found a sweet little snowman built on the side of the path. It was so exciting to see such a glorious sign of winter! I would have stopped to build it a friend, but we’d only just begun our skiing adventure.
When we passed it’s spot on the way back, our sweet snowman was just a pile of snow. It looked like someone had knocked it down. I was sad for my little snow friend, but I remembered that snowmen are only temporary. That’s a part of winter too.
Though I was tired and hungry and super, super sore after my ski de fond excursion, I was so happy to have spent that precious time with my host parents. After we passed our dead snowman, Didier said how surprised he was not to see more families out and about, doing the same thing we were. Auvergne is such a beautiful region. It seems so silly to miss out on the snow and hills and trees, even if they are difficult to climb.
When Didier said this, I thought about how I might have missed out on the snow and hills and trees if I’d realized how hard ski de fond really was. If I’d thought about it before, I might have let myself take a snow day, stay inside, drink hot chocolate. I was so lucky to not realize what I was in for, to not think of my legs before we left the church on Sunday morning. I was right to think about how lucky I was to have such caring and patient host parents, who waited for me and laughed with me when I tripped and fell. Without them, I might have missed this beautiful ski de fond.