While my daughters and I have skated for years on lakes, Lake Morey is groomed specifically for skaters. Last early Sunday, we packed up skates and snacks and drove south. At the far end of the lake, I realized this was exactly what I had been craving — all that sky overhead, the lake ringed by mountains, the promise of summer and swimming with rope swings tucked into tree branches for the winter. Beneath my silver blades, the ice was swept by humans but created by nature, stippled unevenly, split with cracks, utterly uneven.
We’re now in the final week of February. Maples are tapped for sugaring. The forecast predicts warming weather. The ice, I remind myself, won’t last.
10º below zero this eve of 2018. Like an oddly magical gift, I woke from a dream of visiting a woman with whom I’d had conflict, conflict, and I lay as the day’s light slowly trickled into the room, rubbing a happy cat and thinking I could release that piece of worrying.
One more year slipped by, my younger daughter officially leaving the terrain of babydolls for the mountainous terrain of adolescence. Here’s a good thing I fostered: ice skating.
If it is written and read with serious attention, a novel, like a myth or any great work of art, can become an initiation that helps us to make a painful rite of passage from one phase of life, one state of mind, to another. A novel, like a myth, teaches us to see the world differently; it shows us how to look into our own hearts and to see the world from a perspective that goes beyond our own self-interest.
When I carried out the stove ashes this morning, the air was balmy, almost sweet, redolent with that peculiar scent of woodsmoke hanging low, with traces of mud and the wetness of tree bark. The ten-year-old girls played in the hoop house, climbing up the metal arches, while I restocked where the woodpile had fallen down into slushy puddles.
Later, the rain began to fall in earnest, and the little girls and I drank tea and talked about the river ice breaking up. We remembered snowshoeing on a pond last winter, and someone who had broken through the top crust, soaking his boot. He spread himself out on the ice, to even his weight.
In the cold of winter, we often skate on deep lakes with enormous pleasure. I reiterated how to skate with safety – how to love Vermont’s frozen waters with the bend of the sky overhead.
As we talked on and on this rainy, chatty day, I ended up telling my daughter and her friend about a visit I had made to Detroit when I was their age. My father bought food at a restaurant where money and food revolved through a bullet-proof revolving door. My siblings and I didn’t understand this at all; my father said, “We’re in Detroit, now, kids.”
Rule 1 if you break through the ice: don’t panic.
It is January, and there are crows
like black flowers on the snow.
While I watch they rise and float toward the frozen pond,
they have seen
Some streak of death on the dark ice.
They gather around it and consume everything, the strings
and the red music of that nameless body. Then they shout,
one hungry, blunt voice echoing another….