By LEIF HOVELSEN
Norway is a country of long winters and deep snow. My father took me skiing before I could walk. He would put me on his skis in front of him, hold me upright, and off we would go.
So every winter I spend a couple of weeks skiing in the mountains.
I like to do systematic training, and like other people when they are logging, I time myself over various distances with a stopwatch. If in the course of a week I manage to cut five to ten minutes off a 15 kilometre run, I know I am getting into good physical shape.
One day, a few winters ago, I started without the usual rush. I took it gently and looked around me. It was such a wonderful day. The sun was shining, the snow conditions were perfect, it simply couldn't have been better.
As I skied, I suddenly became aware of a big hare hopping along in the light snow: It stopped, sat back on its hind legs, pricked up its ears, looked at me, and then hopped on again.
Next l saw the trail of a fox; then some marks in the snow where two white grouse had been resting.
As I went 'crawling' on, I caught sight of a rugged birch tree that fascinated me. I stopped and took it in, a perfect piece of art which reminded me of the paintings of van Gogh.
Suddenly the mountains and each crystal of snow came to life. That skiing trip turned learning experience for me. As I let God's marvellous world flood over me, I said to myself, 'Why haven't I seen this before?' Then I realized that so far I had only seen two things in the mountains: the ski-tracks and the stopwatch. I had rushed along obsessed by them.
It struck me that it is like that in life too. We only see what we want to see. And it takes sue a long time to discover the wonders and the greatness, the qualities and opportunities inherent in every human being, that spark of God's gift granted to each one of us to nourish and develop.
How difficult it is to discover and treasure the unique qualities of the people closest to me - my own family, my neighbours, those I might not approve of - and to see the greatness in other peoples, who are different from me but are still part of the family of nations.
As I slid comfortably along the ski-trails, reflecting and taking in the marvels of creation, it also struck me how spellbound we can become by the 'gods' of our times. Gliding along, it dawned on me that their ideas do not encompass the whole of reality. Like the trail I was skiing in, they are only a few tracks on the surface of time: yet how easy it is to follow them, unthinking. Each of us is free to make new tracks across the virgin snow.