Skates intimidate me. A razor blade edge strapped on leather. I perceive this as a great way to break my neck. Ice waits for a slip in one’s balance. It yearns to bring you closer to its hard, unforgiving surface. It dares you to find its weak spot and glide across it unwittingly….only to end up in frigid waters. I’ve seen “It’s A Wonderful Life.” I know what can happen if the ice breaks. Down goes the girl, sinking into dark waters.
My initial experience on ice skates had reeked of awkwardness and embarrassment. A youth group experience in Germany that left me wounded and embarrassed.
“Here”, the man behind the counter said. He plunked down the pair of skates in front of me. I slowly picked them up, walked to a bench, and laced them … My ankles wouldn’t straighten. I grabbed a rail and inched my way across the ice….and fell on my back.
Two friendly faces appeared above me.
“Do you want some help?” one asked. A girl with bright red hair that drooped into her eyes.
“Danke,” I said.
The two slightly built teenagers helped me to my feet.
“Lean on us,” the dark-haired one said.
I leaned my large, robust frame on them, balancing my weight between them. They glided along the ice with me, wobbling at every move. The moment they tried releasing me, I would topple. The ice mocked me. I detected acute sympathy in my two comrades.
“I’ve had enough,” I finally said.
“Are you sure?” The red-haired one asked again.
“Ja.” They helped me to a bench where I unlaced my skates. I watched them glide away like swans. I couldn’t trace the origin of the ache inside me. Was it only wounded pride? Was it my lack of ability? Or some inner wall which blocked my confidence? Was I just ashamed to be myself?
Who knows? I was only 16.
That’s why the ice beckoned me again. An old foe needed vanquished.
I choose to ignore these old memories when my friend invited me to skate Evergreen Lake in Evergreen, Colorado. “Sure,” I said unhesitatingly. “Sounds fun.”
Fun? My typical idea of fun is staying at home, curled up watching “Anne of Green Gables” and knitting. The most adventurous thing I’d ever done was white water rafting. (only after some heartfelt convincing from my roommate but that is another blog post) But, as it has been said, “One cannot sit down to write until one has stood up to live.” I’m a writer. It is my obligation to my craft to get up off my butt and experience life.
However, some people are born with the innate ability for balance and grace. My high school friend, Leslie, was such a person. She held herself with regal dignity on her roller blades. I tried them once. I never let go of the wooden fence in front of her house. I have no balance. I’m not blessed with the gift of agility on my feet.
But everything faded once on the ice. I lost any fear, any shame of unforeseen fallings, or serious injuries. This was not me as an awkward teenager anymore. This was me, as a grown, married woman, facing a frozen pond.
There was a magical feeling on the ice. Men, women, boys, girls—all roamed past me on skillful feet. A father and daughter held a friendly competition to see who could skate faster and more gracefully. Like Olympic athletes, they glided furiously past me, a whirl of hats and scarves and mittens.
I held onto my giant orange cone, happily sliding on baby steps. My goal was to circle the lake at least once. Reaching that goal, a surge of confidence swept over me. “Come on, “ I heard myself urging my friend, Amber. “Let’s go again.”
I gradually released my grip on the cone. Amber would hold onto it, and I would glide to her. My unease melted under the warm glow of fellow skaters. Then…. Amber made me laugh.
One moment I’m laughing, the next I’m sprawled on the ice.
The fall was hard—feet up, backwards, butt pounding the ice.
“Are you okay?” A stranger asked me.
I had to laugh. “Yes, yes,” I wheezed out. My breath came out in spurts.
The course of one’s life is full of adventures and side roads and attractions. Our society dashes from one job or entertainment to the next. We barely catch our breath. Living means tasting, touching, feeling, doing— all with our eyes firmly on the now, absorbing its joy. I want to experience the moment that I find myself in—with all its crushing beauty and glorious thrills.
I don’t want to sit on the sidelines anymore. I don’t want to be the girl in the bleachers, watching the game. I want to be in the fray—sweating, gasping, stretching.
At the end of the film, Ever After, the narrator states, “And although Cinderella and her prince did live happily ever after, the point, gentlemen, is that they lived.”
This is the point. To live in freedom and with gusto.
Excuse me, I hear an adventure calling. Catch ya later.