The little town of Katschberg, a high mountain pass in the Central Eastern Alps in Austria between Rennweg am Katschberg in the state of Carinthia and Sankt Michael im Lungau in Salzburg, was our Winter destination. A place where Gaia would fulfill her dream of tasting snow, and I would ski again after 20 years. From Munich we took a two-hour train to Salzburg, then another two hours to Spittel.
In this town a Taxi drove us, without speed limit, through slopes which culminated in a white oasis: The Falkensteiner ski resort. I highly recommend this nurturing place! It is fairly priced, geared towards families, with countless activities for children, the all inclusive food is a delight, and the ski-in ski-out accessibility is a must when you have little ones.
The white slopes or “hills” as Gaia calls them, have shown me the capabilities of my daughter. They have also faced me with my fears as a mother and as a woman. They brought painful memories of my teenage years when my abusive father took me to ski in Colorado and constantly made me feel like a coward. Once I lost sight of my childhood I was faced with fear of heights and speed. This makes me feel out of control, in danger. And now that I am a mother I want nothing more than to be safe and healthy, so I can support my daughters.
Taking a ski class with Nico, my German instructor, made me face these fears one more time. 20 years later I was at the top of the beginners slope, feeling it was a “black” [or advance] what I had to ski down. And then there was Nico, just a couple of meters away from me, telling me I could do it. I slowly went down, wedging so the speed would not dominate my wellbeing. We kept going down doing some exercises to keep balance, and he reassured me I was doing great, although my thighs were hurting from the stress, the fear. As we kept going down, like dancing with the snow, I started to let go, because the kindness and safety of Nico kept me gently going, for once I was not yelled at. I was 15 again, and now I was nurtured into believing I could do this even though I was fearful.
At the end of the slope I gently stopped and he smiled at me with a cliché “you did it!”. We took the lift up and we went down again, this time from a steeper part. I went down as usual, slow but steady. Halfway down I completely let go to the mountain and I did what he told me, I felt it. I felt the curves of this magnificent hill, the toughness of the Austrian Alps were within me, and with this dance I surrendered, because surrender becomes power, and I have learned, especially after giving birth, that when you are most vulnerable you find your strength.
We finished the lesson by Nico reminding me I was not a beginner, I was an intermediate skier. This statement gave me more confidence into skiing with Gaia, and for our next Winter vacation I will look into continuing intermediate lessons as I release my distress for speed.
Skiing with my little girl. Watching her go down the white slope was the metaphor of life in front of my eyes. They grow, they are better than you because they are meant to transcend your essence. As I watched her go fast and steady through this whimsical mountain, I realized my place as her mother: Watch her go, even though my fear for her safety surpasses the proud moment of having her in my life. Watch your kids travel life, like a steep mountain and then be there when they fall, to tell them it will be alright, because they are strong and because you will be there to support them.
When you are a parent you are faced by emotional and spiritual challenges daily. It is a constant battle that I experience when frustration takes over me. I forget to remember that I must see through the eyes of a child in order to better understand how Gaia feels.
Austria opened a wound I had, having experience distress in a past skiing experience, but it also healed me. I was able to ski with Gaia and pick her up when she fell. I was able to become confident after she fell from the button lift and we had to ski down to catch it again. In Austria I continued to fall in love with my family. Traveling together is [not can be] stressful, but it teaches us to fight the same little battles, like having a tired four-year old, or a fuzzy baby, and to be practical and [very] flexible.
In this mesmerizing trip, having my first encounter with Europe [a long lasting dream] I was heartened by the fact that facing my weaknesses and consternations will strengthen my spirit, my motherhood.