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A firebreak is a gap in vegetation or other combustible material that acts as a barrier to slow or stop the progress of a bushfire or wildfire. A firebreak may occur naturally where there is a lack of vegetation or "fuel", such as a river, lake or canyon.

My mum grew up in the 1950s and 1960s and she is much more outdoorsy than I am.

When my brother and I were small, she would take us camping almost every summer, and most winter weekends, we went cross-country skiing in the Moscow region.

These skiing trips were little adventures. We would get up early, take the equipment (skies, sticks, boots and backpacks) out of the wall cupboard, pack lunch (boiled eggs, sandwiches with cheese, sausage, and salted lard and, most importantly, the 3-liter thermos with tea, which only mother was allowed to carry for fear that my brother or I would drop it, breaking the inner glass flask), take the dog and go out of the door.

After that, it took almost an hour to get to "the woods": 15 minutes by metro to one of the Moscow railway stations and 30 to 45 minutes by commuter train to the stop at which we would exit and start skiing. I don't know why we would ski at the 3 or 4 locations where we did; probably, that is where my mother used to go with her friends from college.

Cross-country skiing is very popular here, and unless a major snowfall has occured recently, you will find several ski track near most train station in the woodsy areas because forrests and fields are mostly state property accessible to everyone; they are not fenced off.

These ski tracks often follow clearings under power transmission lines and other firebreaks or simply wind through the trees.

Most often, we would form a line and follow one of the tracks for several hours without a destination in mind, stopping if we came a cross a hill to ski down from and for lunch, and return home in the late afternoon after dusk.

Our poor dog Belka loved those outings, but hated not being able to corral everyone. She would constantly scurry from the first line to the last and back again. When the track was double, it was easy for her to pass everyone, but when it wasn't, she would plough and hop like a hare over the virgin snow on the side. After we returned home, she plopped on her rug and slept like a rag doll, not even having the energy to get up for a drink of water.

On one memorable occasion, mother decided to take Belka with us while she was in heat (she was never spayed because my parents feared having her operated upon "unnecessarily") as we usually skied out of sight of the nearby villages and rarely met other dogs. Yet not 30 mintes after we got off the train, there was our Belka with a stray dog that came out of nowhere, stood on the nearby hill in all their "dog wedding" glory!

On another occasion, half of us lost their sticks. It happened like this: that time, mother, brother and I were joined by three of four classmates and another parent or two as chaperones. Us kids quickly grew bored with the slow pace the adults were setting, so we went ahead faster. Only the track split up, and instead of waiting for the slower memeber of the party to show, at least, within eyesight, like we should have done, we decided to continue, leaving behind one of our sticks to show the parents which direction we'd chosen.

I don't know whose great idea this was (probably mine), and why we were certain that the adults would not only notice the stick but also understand its significance, collect it and bring it to us.—They didn't.

I do not remember how we managed to get reunited later on (minus at least 6 sticks). I guess we were simply lucky. But I still remember how my mum, the two other kids who'd left their sticks behind, my brother and I raced against the gathering dusk to recover them.—We never did. We only found the two of mine, which were older, bedraggled and slighly bent out of shape. The remaining four were lost forever, probably collected by some other skier who might have wondered why there were sticks left lying in the snow (our mistaken attempt to make them into arrows, with the sharp end pointing in the direction we'd chosen).

As luck would have it, the lost sticks belonged to my classmates who rarely joined us, making it even more difficult for my mother to explain this loss to their parents.

I have not gone skiing since graduating from college because I do not share my mother's passion for it and have always had much less energy.


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 2nd, 2019 07:13 pm (UTC)
ConCrit is welcome.
Feb. 3rd, 2019 03:36 am (UTC)
I've never tried cross country skiing. It sounds fun! But kind of tiring. I do downhill skiing with some regularity and all that moving around you do on cross country sounds a bit tedious, but something I'd like to try.

The name for the ski sticks is "poles" or "ski poles". I've always know that transliteration from English to Russian doesn't always work. It must be the same from Russian to English lol.
Feb. 3rd, 2019 03:59 am (UTC)
To the contrary, I have never been downhill skiing, only skied down hill on 'ordinary' skies and cannot quite compare, but the advantage of cross-country is that you don't have to regulate your speed most of the time, and the scenery changes all the constantly. Going down the same hill gets pretty boring after a while. (Of course I have never gone down a mountain, because getting back up without a machine to help, no thank you :).)

Oops. Thank you for this correction... but Wiki says that the UK word is sticks *rolleyes * (and so does the dictionary I consulted).

I will have to choose which between the UK and US verbiage one day and be consistent about it. (If only dictionaries gave both and mentioned which is which!) I remember the purse-wallet confusion, too. Because yes, I have a purse in my handbag (not a wallet in my purse 😏), but generally I just use whichever word I know. A lot of the time I don't even know there are two...
Feb. 3rd, 2019 04:06 am (UTC)
Oh how interesting. I had no idea about that, the British word.

I kind of think that word should not exist just because the UK does not have any skiing PERIOD. Not downhill or cross country, through supposedly somewhere in the UK they have snow-less skiing where they do it on nets.

Whatever word you use is up to you, of course : ).

Feb. 4th, 2019 07:30 pm (UTC)
You know, I think you will enjoy "Eddie the Eagle" movie. It shows what came out of there being no skiing in the UK (quite true) very nicely.
Feb. 4th, 2019 04:47 pm (UTC)
I love your vignettes. The cross-country ski adventures sound like so much fun! I'm afraid I'm not familiar with salted lard, but the rest of the food sounds great for a winter trip. You are fortunate to be able to take a train, then get out and start skiing.
Feb. 4th, 2019 07:29 pm (UTC)
The lard is a traditional Russian and Ukrainian food. It may sound strange, and it does have a somewhat greasy consistency at room temperature, but it is kept in the fridge, and quite tasty, especially if there is some meat in it, too. https://www.gastronom.ru/binfiles/images/00000144/00098683.jpg
Feb. 4th, 2019 09:09 pm (UTC)
I would've liked to try cross country skiing. (Can't now due to arthritis and heart issues.) I did like downhill skiing, but it is a very expensive sport here in the US so I did not go often.

Your trips with your mother and brother sound wonderful, actually. I can imagine the smell of the crisp air and trees, how blue the sky must be...

Thank you for sharing this with us! 😊🎀🐞✌🐁🐭
Feb. 5th, 2019 05:58 am (UTC)
And the sparkling snow, when it is cold (below -10C/15F), but not yet too cold to be outside for hours. :)
Feb. 4th, 2019 09:34 pm (UTC)
I've only tried cross-country skiing even though I've now spent half my life living in the Rocky Mountains, which are so well known for downhill skiing. Cross-country was exhausting to me - I didn't like it at all.

I love the little details in your recollection; the dog jumping through the deeper snow, the lunch you brought with you, and the inner glass of the thermos. We were never allowed to hold onto my fathers thermos for the exact reason. :)
Feb. 5th, 2019 06:02 am (UTC)
The modern steel thermoses are much less fragile, but the two we have also hold the heat much worse than those old ones did (we had two, and one did end up broken exactly the way my mother predicted several years ago :) ).

I liked it because I never experienced the joys of a machine pulling you up the hill. I did not know the difference :D
Feb. 5th, 2019 04:09 am (UTC)
I, too, was distracted by the salted lard, which sounds kind of inedible!

I had never really thought about people taking the train to do something like ski-- which means taking their equipment on the train as well. It probably isn't unusual, though, and it's convenient to be able to get off the train, strap on the skis, and go! Plus, unlike here... nobody has to drive up into the snow in a car. The train has a much easier time of it!

These sound like wonderful memories, even if you don't miss the skiing now. :)
Feb. 5th, 2019 06:09 am (UTC)
I guess it depends on what you are used to. I also like liver, and boiled cow tongues, which a lot of people frown upon, but wouldn't cook for myself tripe, chicken feet, and some other foods that were not eaten much in my family.

There were a lot fewer cars around 25 years ago, and my family never had one, so taking trains and using other public transport is natural to me, but of course it would be a hassle to travel with skies by car!
Feb. 5th, 2019 11:04 pm (UTC)
:D For cars, people generally load the skis/poles on roof racks-- because yes, stuffing them in the car would be hard and obnoxious unless you had a long station wagon, truck, or hatchback. :)
Feb. 5th, 2019 08:48 am (UTC)
This was so interesting to read and very enjoyable too :D I love the outdoors and snow myself and cross-country skiing sounds like a great adventure!

(I'm bellatrix_lestrange on dw/idol)

Edited at 2019-02-05 08:48 am (UTC)
Feb. 6th, 2019 03:54 am (UTC)
Thank you :)
Feb. 5th, 2019 08:04 pm (UTC)
I've never been skiing. The largest dry ski slope in the UK was on the hillside between where I live and the city centre (don't think I pointed it out to you?) but the hillside was set on fire about 6 years ago. (insurance?). I have been up two of the ski slopes in Scotland but not to ski. One I just went up to try a ski lift chair as I'd never sat in one before, and the other I rode up to have a coffee in the cafe at the top and spend time admiring the mountain view.
Feb. 5th, 2019 09:30 pm (UTC)
No, you didn't, it never came up.

I have never been on that chair either, and I totally get why you had to try :D
Feb. 6th, 2019 01:02 am (UTC)
You have a way of telling wonderful tales of your life that feel welcoming. It gives your pieces a very intimate feel.
Feb. 6th, 2019 03:54 am (UTC)
Aw, thank you very much for the compliment :)
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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