What do nine women, including three sisters, three generations and a handful of close friends have in common? Sisu!
Arriving at the National Forest Lodge near Isabella, I lugged my gear into the spacious log house that would be our home for three days. As the newcomer to a group that has convened here annually for years, I wondered how I would fit in. I needn’t have worried. Gathering in the kitchen, one member had already laid out hand-made snowflake earrings (no two alike, of course) and lanyards emblazoned with “sisu,” its definition under our names: “Sisu begins where the perseverance and grit end.” I knew it right then. These were my soul-mates. This was going to be a good weekend.
We made rapid work of choosing beds and dumping our bags. The Flathorn-Gegoka cross-country ski trails awaited right outside the door. As soon as we could strap on our skis, we set out to make the most of the remaining daylight. Brilliant blue skies and warm sunshine offset the blustery wind, and soon we were sheltered by the deep forest. With two-feet of newly fallen snow freshly groomed into narrow single classic tracks, we brushed shoulders with tall pines. Branches laden with mounds of snowy fluff, sun peeping through, all sounds but the swish of our skis were muffled by the soft whiteness.
Morning brought sub-zero temperatures, but not a single Sisu sister hesitated. Fueled by a healthy and hearty breakfast in the lodge, we donned all our layers and ventured forth on skis and snowshoes. The pattern would repeat itself over the next two days. Eat and ski. Groups formed and reformed, venturing out until fingers and toes needed rejuvenating or the next meal beckoned.
Behind every Sisu sister, there is a lighter side. Or a crazier one. Some intrepid souls could not resist the lure of the sauna and polar plunge. I readily admit to passing on this experience, but they didn’t hold it against me.
There were no midnight sorties on the trail by headlamp. Instead, fierce competitive streaks emerged. Huddled around the dining table, we furiously shaped and reshaped crosswords playing Bananagrams, and drew artful clues for Pictionary. This was serious business, perhaps enhanced by a sip or two of wine.
If sharing a passion for word games, skiing as many kilometers as daylight allows, nestling by the fire with a bit of wine, waking to the smell of brewing coffee and sneaking oatmeal cookies are any indication, I think I passed the Sisu initiation. Thank you, sisters!