07 March 2006


7 March 2006

Growing up in Wyoming, what I remember most from my teenage years are stifling hot summers that sapped my energy and freezing cold winters that sometimes came so early that my Halloween costume would have to be designed around my thick winter coat.

One winter activity that I remember clearly is ice skating.   Every year the baseball field would be flooded and the club house turned into a warming hut.   I don’t remember if I ever owned skates but I do remember being taught how to skate, first on double-bladed skates and then later on traditional single-bladed skates.

I was never a very good skater.   I got to the point where I could stay on my feet while going fast enough to play tag with my friends-- a game which later evolved into the more cruel, "steal the hat or mitten and bury in the snow bank around the edge of the ring."   Usually the hat or glove was found promptly, but I remember at least one occasion where the hat disappeared.   We searched in vain but finally gave up and hoped it would turn up in the spring– which was very cold comfort to the owner of the lost hat.

So, I could keep my feet on skates, even to the point of learning how to skate backward and make two-footed turns.   But my absolute favorite thing about skating was the feeling of flying.   Once up to speed I could glide around the ice, arms spread wide, and feel as if I were floating just above the ground.   It was wonderful.

Then I moved to the Pacific Northwest to go to school and found a wonderful temperate climate.   I was willing to trade alternating hot and cold sunshine for the all-year gray-green mist.   I could grow roses without having to cut them back and bundle them up against the cold every fall.   I felt like I had come home.

One thing the Pacific Northwest doesn’t have at the lower altitudes is ice, or at least not in any persistent form.   There are no exterior clues to tell you that it is time for winter sports.   When my husband, housemate, and I moved into our very own house I noticed that there was an ice rink not far away.   I drove by it every time I went to the nursery to buy new plants for our yard but for eight years it never registered that I could go skate there.

This year while we were watching the Olympics my son said he was interested in learning how to ice skate.   I thought that might be fun and so used the power of the internet to see if we had a local ice rink.   Up popped the name of the rink I had driven by for so many years.   It has its own web site, complete with open skate times, so off we went.

The two of us rented skates and held hands as we stepped down onto the ice.   He held onto the wall and I held onto him.   We made it around the rink on our wobbly legs twice before giving in.   It was fun to go with him while he tried something new (and I tried to remember how to stay upright).

I came home tired that day, but happy.   A few days passed and the thought kept popping up that it would be good to go skating on my own and see if I could regain any of my old skills.   I picked a time and showed up with the rink, entrance fee in hand.   I strapped on the rented skates and pushed away from the wall.

I promptly fell down.   I got back up, with the help of the wall, and, very slowly made it around the rink, stopping every two circuits to rest and adjust my skates.   I went home wondering if I could come again.

Today I made time.   I was at the rink at a time when there were just two other skaters practicing.   I went round and round so many times that I lost count.   I practiced bending my knees while speeding along.   I only fell down twice.   Though once I was very far from the wall and, after trying to get up on my own I had to knee walk over the wall and leverage myself up.   I need to build up some of my balance and some skating specific leg muscles.   Knee pads might also be nice.

At thirty-seven years of age, I’m not likely to set the world on fire with my skating.   If I keep going I might relearn some of the tricks I could do so many years ago.   As I was skating, I felt the burden of potential fall away from me.   There are many things I will never be, many roads that are closed to me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t fly.

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