Firsts are easy: first red-winged blackbird wheeze, first hopping robin, first crocus then daffodil, first surge of emerald grass.
The lasts are harder to discern. In August, each time a loon wailed and hermit thrush trilled, I wondered, is this last? Is this? This?
Lacking the bubble and fizz of firsts, lasts can have a kind of sobriety to them, a solemnity, “This too is passing,” and so it was under a moody blue-grey sky I embarked on My Definitive Last Ski of this winter season.
As you can see from my basic equipment: battered waxless x-country skies, mismatching, slightly bent down-hill ski poles—I’m no flying tomato. I’m more like a cookie in milk—I come home soggy from both exertion and frequent experiences of gravity. But clicking into my skis and gliding along the Craftbury Outdoor Center’s miles of groomed lanes running over fields, through woods, undulating around these lovely northern hills is good to do after hours in the house in a chair staring at a screen.
According to the forecast, our spate of pipe- crackingly cold days has reached an end, hence my certainty that this is the last last ski.
As usual I have the back half of the “Grand Tour” loop to myself. In the weeks to come, as the trails go back to bare ground, this kind of excursion will officially become “trespass,” as the place of my leisurely kick-glide becomes the place where corn is grown, and the pastures where lamas, horses, sheep and cows are grazed and the field where hay is made.
I will miss access to this serene thoroughfare, the vast quiet. Temperatures are predicted to hit the 40s for the next 10 days rendering all this a slushy mess.
I finish my run and click out and resume my lumbering gait, a kind of clunky perambulation, a way of moving that seems ungainly after an hour almost frictionless swishing. And this galumphing will now and here forward be my official mode of self propulsion over land.
So there we have it: Good- bye and thank you winter, for my Last official ski of the season.