Last Friday’s snowfall left enough of the white stuff around to actually groom trails, and for the first time in a year, I got out the cross country skis and headed to Gov. Nelson State Park.

Recent winters have been stingy with snow, offering just one or two opportunities for me to ski. I can remember skiing just about every weekend, and sometimes after work when the days got a little longer, about 10 years or so ago when we had enough frequent snowfalls. I never quite mastered the sport but appreciate how it requires so much energy, you can get out in the cold sunshine and not feel the frigid temperatures.

But because I’m still a mediocre skier at best, each time I’ve headed out on the trails these past three winters, I’ve had to teach myself again. The process involves a few stumbles and slips before I can actually glide with some degree of confidence.

The experience seemed to be a metaphor for taking on new challenges or reviving former interests, like playing the piano again after many years without practice. When your fingers first strike the keys again, you’re bound to hit a few off notes.

Still, learning new skills or reintroducing those we once learned is part of human growth, and leaving them behind feels stagnant, so we forge ahead. Besides, the motivation it took to develop those skills reveals a certain passion for them.

The determination to do so takes some degree of courage – we are bound to stumble and slip a few times, and those off notes will likely offend the ear until we practice enough to redevelop and then flex the necessary muscle memory.

Learning new skills, such as playing a new instrument or trying a new sport, must also help keep us young and agile as the brain stretches with the new tasks involved.

January is a perfect time to focus on such tasks. It was named after Janus, the god of beginnings, and whether we are beginning anew or beginning again, the movement is forward. And the long month always seems quiet, offering time for introspection and rediscovery.

What’s important is to accept that we’ll have near falls and misses as we learn or relearn a new skill, and to have patience with ourselves as we take on the challenge. And if the snow keeps flying in the next week or so as predicted, the trails will stay groomed long enough for me to find my stride once again.

Letter from the Editor is a column of personal opinion and experience by the managing editor of the Waunakee Tribune. Views expressed are solely the author’s.

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