As I hurtled out of control down a slope at the Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort, keeping upright only by the grace of God, my life didn’t flash before my eyes. The only thing flashing before my eyes was terror (yes, I think terror can be visible) and the ground, as I flailingly tried to stay perpendicular to it.
I didn’t look up to admire the gorgeous mountainside scenery around me or the pretty little river below me. Nope, my instinct said, with ferocious authority, “Eyes to the ground! Focus only on the earth right in front of you or you’ll go head-over-hiking-shoes!” Actually, my instinct used much stronger language than that. I listened to it. It worked.
I’ll back up: last weekend, Robin Hood and I drove to Sipapu for a two-day archery shoot. If you’ve never been to that part of New Mexico, right around Taos, I urge you to go as soon as possible. Beautiful country. On the way up, driving through Chimayo, we saw a sunset I don’t think either of us will forget anytime soon.
The course for the archery shoot was on the ski slopes. Not right below them, not paralleling them, but on them. I may not be an Ironwoman, but I’m in decent shape, and walking that course was a legitimate workout. One of the targets sat on a hill that was the definition of Why We Have Chair Lifts. I shot my arrow and scrambled to the top of the hill without incident, and made it about halfway back down when…my foot slipped.
A few minutes / eternity later, I stood panting, emitting noises that I suspect sounded like those of an injured turkey hen. I was staring at the ground. Robin Hood trotted down the hill — making it look so easy, darn him — to confirm that I was okay. No, I wasn’t, I had just ALMOST BROKEN MY NECK, and the incident had done NOTHING to improve my relations with, and longstanding mistrust of, super-steep trails.
But Robin Hood spoke good words, I stopped sounding like an injured turkey hen, and I began to feel a teensy bit silly. I did have a decision to make, though: call it a day, or brush off my clumsy display in the spirit of “the shoot must go on”?
I took a few shaky steps forward, stopped, then took a few more steps. I remembered that the ground was something I could trust. I kept reminding myself of that, one step at a time.
I wish I could tell you that I had the best archery shoot of my life that weekend. I didn’t. At all. But as I kept walking around, I got confident enough in my footing that once in a while I would look up. And when I did, the view — the mountains, the canyons, the wildflowers everywhere — put postcards to shame.
Would I have appreciated the beauty around me as much if I hadn’t almost smashed into the ground? If I hadn’t tasted some humble pie; if I hadn’t been reminded to focus on and appreciate what’s right in front of me? I doubt it. “Grounding myself” just took on a whole new meaning.
Here’s to taking it one step at a time.