It had been two years since we woke up to perfect conditions. To the day following a long enough period of sub-zero temperatures and no precipitation. To the day when the ice on the lake was like glass. That day occurred just the other morning. The problem was that we had planned a day trip, which was rather important to both of us and our mental health so we couldn’t seize the moment like we usually do. I gazed longingly out the window during breakfast hoping that it would all last just one more day. Returning late that afternoon, I considered going then, but we were tired and hungry, not a good combination for one’s first skate in two years.
The following morning, there was a dusting of snow covering the ice. It no longer looked like glass. I had hoped to glide along the clear unblemished surface of yesterday. Honestly though, it was only a dusting so I reset my enthusiasm. We were going skating.
The lake may have appeared totally frozen, but there is a current that runs through the middle that is the last to freeze and the first to thaw. A product of rivers at either end, one flowing in and the other flowing out. We have lived here for over twenty years and know the lake well. Plus I grew up near this lake. We never skate in the middle. Some days we skate further than others but we never go to the middle.
We pulled on our snow pants, which have a duel purpose: keeping us warm and adding a layer of cushioning in case we take a tumble. (Yes this has happened, but it never deters us.) My snow pants actually have a bib so they keep me quite warm and enable me to wear only a light jacket of the top. I don’t feel like the Michelin Tire Man. I am actually quite flexible and mobile when bundled up. The Doc is a naturally warm person who constantly radiates heat like our wood stove. He requires less bundling than I normally do.
We are very lucky to live where we live because all we have to do is walk down the hill of our backyard to the lake. We do pit stop at the shed to pick up a couple of folding lawn chairs because at our age it is a little difficult to put on skates while sitting on the ground. And almost impossible to stand up once the skates are on. After years of doing this, we’ve got it all figured out. It’s all about comfort and ease.
Skates on, we stood up and glided away from our chairs. The sky was a crisp blue, the sun a warm white; and the ice, well under that dusting of snow, the ice was perfect. We mostly stayed in the cove to the west of our property. It is normally a calm and shallow area of the lake and is large enough to provide a great-sized skating surface.
I am not a proficient skater but on the lake you don’t have to be proficient. You have a freedom that gives you confidence to go for it. You are not going in a oval and worried about all the others whizzing past you or stopping close to you or falling at your feet. You are in control. If rink skating was my only option, I would never skate. Rink skating could never match the thrill of gliding all over an unrestricted surface, turning at will with the sun on your face. Rink skating is void of the wonderful sounds that a frozen lake makes. The sounds of expansion and contraction. Of loud reverberations that make me think that the surface is snapping and boomeranging like an elastic band. Sounds that make some, but not me, want to skate for shore. Sounds that I remember from my childhood and sounds that I love.
I did tumble once, a slow fall because I was appreciating the day more than focusing on my feet. Once I knew I was going, I prepared for it and landed easy and unscathed. I was surprised at the fact that I am in much better shape than I was two years ago and how easy this skate turned out to be. Two years ago, everything was stiff and ached, before, during and after my skate. I felt old. Two years ago, I had just started doing yoga. This year I got to experience the benefits of my regime.
We skated for just over an hour, then sat on the lawn chairs on the ice for a little while after just to enjoy being there. It was such a beautifully perfect day, a better day for a skate than the one we missed because that day was grey and a bit damp.
Today it is rainy with some freezing rain in our particular area of the province. The ice is no longer fit to skate on; but if we are lucky, really lucky, we may get another cold snap that lasts several days and lacks precipitation to provide us with another skating day before this winter ends. Today we return to watching and waiting and hoping that this will happen.
Thank you for reading.
Photos: Jenn Stone except the Michelin Tire Man (Michelin Tires)