The snow sparkled as it whizzed past my face and the light of little diamonds danced over the slopes. As I skied down the mountain, the wind pushed the corners of my lips into a huge smile. The air tasted as pure and sweet as glacier water. At any moment, I expected a Hollywood director to walk out of the trees and yell, “Cut!”
I skied over to the stands to watch the fastest women downhill skiers in the world whiz down the slippery slopes. I was in Lake Louise, Canada, watching the Women’s World Cup ski races.
As they raced down the mountain at breakneck speeds toward the cheering fans, I couldn’t help but think about the talent, hard work, dedication and determination it takes to be an elite skier. But it also got me thinking about the greatness in all of us, the untold beauty we hide in our hearts and the magical abilities we bury deep within.
I don’t know if it is life hammering people down, bad experiences or growing up, but many people tend to lose their magic, their optimism and get stuck in downward spirals of unhappiness.
But happiness is within. Israeli author and professor Tal Ben-Shahar, who taught a class on positive psychology at Harvard, explained that one of the ways to be happy is to “express gratitude whenever possible. We too often take our lives for granted. Learn to appreciate and savor the wonderful things in life, from people and food to nature and a smile.”
The great outdoors is filled with many adventures, so besides skiing I decided to go dog sledding in Lake Louise. While the weather was 10 degrees below zero Celsius, I braved the elements and went for a ride.
Black, white and brown barking dogs with bright blue eyes greeted me, but as soon as we started to move, their focus shifted and we smoothly glided over the pristine white snow. The air smelled fresh, and the green trees were blanketed with snow. I could hear the majestic quiet of the wind, and the blue-tinted winter wonderland seemed straight out of the pages of a novel.
So it came as no surprise to me that in a Gallup World Poll of 155 nations, Canada, Israel, Australia and Switzerland all rank as the eighth happiest countries.
I have been lucky enough to spend time in all of them, so the high ranking seems appropriate. All four are filled with natural beauty; three out of four have beaches good for surfing, snorkeling and frolicking in the waves. They all have picturesque mountains from Ayers Rock in Australia to Masada in Israel. (OK, so I am biased about loving my namesake.) The chocolate and skiing in Canada and Switzerland are both alluring and addicting.
Always one to try to surround myself with images of brilliance and people of good character, I spent time dreamily staring out my window at the famous Fairmont Hotel in Lake Louise. My mind got lost in the grandeur of the glacier and the frozen lake where I skated earlier in the day. I saw the clouds roll away from the mountains and the rays of sunlight shimmer on the treetops. It was like watching the brush strokes of an artist in action.
Touched by the ultimate work of art, I wondered why nature’s beauty evokes strong responses, often bringing people to tears.
My conclusion: Nature is real, honest and straightforward.
Nature is not afraid, nor does it hide imperfections.
It is admired for its raw beauty, not criticized.
Nature rages and expresses itself with angry storms, and cries with torrential rainfalls. Nature blows off steam with tornadoes, hurricanes and volcanoes.
It got me to thinking, if people would shake their fears, share their hearts and be themselves, chances are they would sparkle and radiate light just like the snow reflects the sunshine.
Every day, in every place, nature’s gifts are evident: Whether in the pure white snow, spectacular sunsets, wide open fields, glorious mountains and endless oceans or simply in a flowerpot on your windowsill.
So while it’s easy to see the diamonds sparkle in the light of Lake Louise, there is beauty surrounding you too. Take a moment to notice, appreciate and enjoy. If you do, your own inner light will glow, and you might make the world a brighter place.