Woman sees winter through new eyes on cross-country skis

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Anna Marie Lux
Monday, February 24, 2014

JANESVILLE--Kris Kroening looks forward to exploring the winter woods, especially in the last glow of daylight.

On cross-country skis, she works her way up gentle hills. At the top, she pauses, breathes in deeply and looks around her quiet world.

“The other night, I watched a big full moon behind the trees,” she said. “I am so blessed to be able to experience it.”

She sighs: “The winter is so beautiful.”

With almost a month before spring, Kris is a reminder that the coldest time of the year does not have to be all about misery. Instead, nature can heal the winter blues, if only we grab our chances to feel the sun on our faces.

At the end of January, Kris realized she needed to do something to boost her waning spirit. While working out at the gym, she felt like a hamster in a wheel.

“I was exercising, but I was not enjoying it,” she said. “I decided to embrace the season.”

Kris broke out her cross-country skis. She dressed in layers. With an open heart, she set out on one of more than six miles of groomed cross-country trails at Rockport Park.

Now, she skis every chance she gets, four to five times a week, especially if there is new snow.

“I feel like I have found myself again,” the retired teacher said. “I feel energized. My body doesn't have that sluggish winter feeling.”

Rockport Park is only minutes from her west-side Janesville home. So even on days when snow makes travel difficult, she can easily get to her newly found haven, which she calls “a delightful winter treasure.”

Once there, she cannot wait to get going.

“My skis swish with each glide as I revel in the sheer joy of movement,” Kris said. “I am one with our frozen season.”

She often skis at dusk, when barred owls hoot loudly among the trees and then fly silently into secret shadows. Recently, she marveled as two deer leaped over the trail, only yards in front of her. On another outing, snowflakes melted on her face.

“If you invite it in,” Kris said, “there is a quiet fellowship with nature.”

Since putting on her skis, she is a renewed woman.

“I have not dreaded the winter since I started doing this,” Kris said. “I even enjoy new snow because it will make the trails better. I would love the snow to continue because I love doing this.”

Recent thawing has changed some her favorite trails, but she knows we are not out of the woods yet.

More snow will certainly come.

And, yes, she looks forward to it.

So the point is simple. Winter's solitude and artistry are easy to ignore when you are shoveling out your rural mailbox for the hundredth time. Or blowing snow from the driveway. Or dodging drifts on your drive home.

But perspective makes a difference.

“It's all how you look at it,” Kris said. “If you don't ski, you can snowshoe through the woods.”

If you don't snowshoe, you can simply walk along the sidewalk.

Like Kris, take time to notice how the wind sculpts the icy landscape. Admire the fiery sunset, just before the Earth drops into the jaws of another frigid night. Or turn into a snow connoisseur.

“The snow this winter is physically beautiful,” Kris said. “It has put on a show for me many times when I go out. It sparkles. It glitters. It makes me pause just to take it all in.”

Skiing gives her a chance to discover her body's rhythm, to breathe deeper and to suspend her daily busyness.

In gratitude, she adds:

“The snow gets my applause this season.”

Anna Marie Lux is a columnist for The Gazette. Her columns run Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call her with ideas or comments at (608) 755-8264, or email amarielux@gazettextra.com.

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