Dreams of Ice and Cold

Friday, November 6, 2009
Yesterday, the temperature hovered just below freezing, the wind never blew, and in the stillness, the lake began to form the first feathers of ice. When we drove home last night from trivia and fire training, the small lake visible from the road was almost completely iced over. Today is warmer, blustery and the ice is gone for now. Although the ice now shimmers and disappears with the weather’s whims, it won’t be long before the ice grows strong enough to hold humans and vehicles.

I wouldn’t call myself a winter sports enthusiast and as such, I don’t spend my summers pining for snow. In truth, snow does offers a plethora of enjoyable activities – sledding, snowshoeing, skiing if only I knew how to – but it quickly grows tedious when it consistently affects travel plans and routinely needs to be “relocated” by shovel. But surprisingly, I don’t grow tired of ice in the winter, as long as my driving surfaces are free of it.

There’s only one thing I’ve been doing longer than writing and that’s skating. My father is a hockey enthusiast and I’ve been skating since I was three years old. As a kid, I played, coached, and refereed hockey and as a teenager, my brother, father and I maintained a teeny ice rink in our backyard. In college I had an opportunity to play for the club team and made some of my best college friends through the experience. One of the biggest highlights of the year is the high school boy’s hockey tournament, so much so that I’ve had the championship game taped for me when I was out of the country for the tournament.

Minnesota may be the hockey state of the U.S., but here, the winters are dominated by downhill and cross-country skiing. That’s just fine by me, but I’m grateful to have some from a hockey family. There’s a freedom on the ice I don’t feel anywhere else. Having control on top of a generally fickle surface, feeling the cool winter wind against my flushed cheeks, even the burning in my thighs are some of the best feelings in the world, rivaled only by diving into a cool lake on sultry summer afternoon.

Last year, the ice was skate-able on November 18th, less than two weeks away from where we sit now. I picked up my skates at my house last week and they, along with my hockey sticks, have been riding around expectantly with me everywhere. There’s talk among the Thursday trivia crowd of pick-up hockey games on Wednesday nights this winter at the community outdoor rink. (No cushy indoor arenas for us!) Over the last few winters, school, travel and work have all kept me from being the rink rat I was in my teens. I miss those days and a return to the skates and the rink will be happy consequence of this first winter back in the woods in six years. The skates seriously need a visit to Stewart’s in Duluth to be sharpened before the ice arrives though.

In other news, we’ve signed up for Project Feederwatch, broadband internet is on its way to the county, and tomorrow marks the start of deer season. We’re up at the cabin, since it’s closer to the location of Andy’s more promising deer stand than the Shack. He claims he’ll be up at the crack of dawn tomorrow and I’m looking forward to a day of research and writing before heading back to the deep cleaning on Sunday. That and looking out across the lake and waiting for the ice to form.

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