Each winter when I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for that wonderful day when there was enough snow to go sledding. The amount of snow had to be just right, as too much would make it impossible and too little would be a horribly muddy experience. I would love to say that I was a pro at sledding, but that would be a lie. I was never able to steer properly and would just point my sled in a direction that looked like it wouldn’t maim anyone on the way down, shove off, and hope for the best. Though I began with a wood and metal sled like this one, my parents quickly switched me to a plastic toboggan in order to avoid lawsuits. The plastic kind could still topple another child on the way down, but lacked the sharp bits that could slice off precious body parts. The unfortunate part of the plastic version is that you were no longer suspended above the snow and could feel every rock and bump, getting unceremoniously butt-pummeled all the way down. A small price to pay, I guess, for the sake of public safety.
I rather missed the wooden sled as I was able to launch onto it at a run and sail down on my stomach head first. This felt a bit like flying, which has always been a dream of mine. Also, I mistakenly felt that I had a bit more control, or could at least roll to the side should I find myself sailing toward a tree or another child, when I would of course have the decency to yell, “jump!” Certainly, holding my arms out to the side and flapping them didn’t count as steering. Switching to the plastic version was a bit of a let down. It lacked the ornate style and didn’t feel like a proper sled at all. I think mine was red, and then maybe yellow after the bottom wore out in the first one. Some kids had circular dishes that they rode, but those were simply not an option for me. It was like sitting on a toilet clinging for dear life, legs in the air, while occasionally spinning like a UFO. You could also sit cross-legged but I was already too tall to fit properly and could never quite bend my legs into that perfect yogi pretzel.
The hill we always went to was simply called “Sled Hill” and at my young age it seemed more like a mountain. I still remember the sheer and gleeful terror I felt the first time I slid down it. Like most kids, scaring the hell of myself was a delightful thing to do. It takes years to learn how to be truly afraid of things. I haven’t tried to return to that hill and give it go, but I’ve considered it. I’m sure now, it would look somehow small and unimposing, which would sort of kill my lifelong memory of accomplishment. I had scaled that mighty mountain, zoomed forth at lightening speed and made it to the bottom mostly unscathed. In my mind today, whenever I’m facing a difficult problem, I just think back to that time and remind myself that I was once fearless. I imagine myself grabbing that little bit of frost-bitten rope with my mighty mittens and I’m ready to tackle anything that comes my way. Assuming, of course, the problem doesn’t actually involve a tree or small children. I really was rubbish at the sport. Instead, I just focus on the bit where I wasn’t scared of taking chances and, no matter how steep, I would take the leap and go sledding down a hill.
About the Doodlewash
Da Vinci Paint Co.: Terra Cotta, Quinacridone Red, Cobalt Turqouise and Cobalt Blue. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with sepia ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book.