Oh! Canada

Sometimes at night I can hear the ice crack
It sounds like thunder and it rips through my back*

For those following along, I reminisced about home made ice rinks and ended with this paragraph in my January post: “A good rink and a vigorous skate always makes for a promising start to another year. I have more opportunities this time round to make this one better than the previous year.” https://wordpress.com/post/henrydecock.org/720

This weekend, I finally got my good rink and a vigorous skate. The entire lake became my ice playground and I lived my dream skating experience.

Olga and I did not stay long enough at the cottage for my first attempt at a rink to have frozen completely solid. I skated in a small circle for five minutes before abandoning the trial. On our return in February, a deep snow blanketed the entire lake, warming the ice below. My futile shoveling resulted in a colossal mushy mess. The ice eventually froze into unrepairable craters. Running water from the cottage with a hose proved fruitless and we left disappointed. I needed a better way to flood and prepare the surface.

We returned last week to yet more evidence of precipitation. Days of fluctuating temperatures meant the snow was hard enough to walk on but not a clear patch was in sight. I spent several hours spread over two days scraping off the snow glued to the frozen surface of my original rink. Then the big melt. Two days of sunny plus 12 degrees shrunk the snow, revealing portions of rock and land unseen for several months. A brief thunderstorm added more water as the lake became a huge puddle. Knee deep snow reduced to ankle deep water. Just as quickly, the winds ushered in colder weather, dropping the temperature to below freezing overnight; then a brief bounce back before plummeting to minus 12 by Friday evening. Nature was doing the work for me, expanding my postage stamp rink into a massive outdoor arena.

We woke up Saturday morning to the frozen, golden pond crying out – get your skates! get your hockey stick! come and enjoy!

Exhilarated with the prospect, I gathered my skates warming over the floor heat register, donned the quintessential red plaid coat, grabbed the Paul Coffey hockey stick and rushed down the rocky stairs to the shore side bench. Yank and stretch then wrap and tie those laces tightly, a toss of the puck landing with a thud and sent skittering across massive ice cube, then that first step pushing off the back leg and I am gliding out into the expanse of our bay. What a beautiful feeling.

I chased the puck, each leg thrust propelling me further into the expanse, quicker than my row boat or canoe, heading for the opposite shore. The lake ice was outdoor smooth around the perimeter divided by an untenable scarred track through the middle from the snowmobile path not completely eradicated by the sun or the rain. With no one to stick handle around, I shot the puck further along until I arrived at the four ice fishers near the island. A hearty hello and a welcome chat, Steve informed me the ice was almost two feet thick. I reversed course and continued my tour past empty cottages, watched by the surrounding trees. Swish, swish, cold air against my face, push the puck along, circle back, accelerate and glide. What a wonderful feeling; sun shining, skating in the open air. No boundaries, no time limits, no worries. The only thing missing were others to play hockey.

Olga was excited for me and wanted to share in the joy by very gingerly meandering onto the ice, occasionally drifting with the wind, cautiously moving around the buried docks, laughing and smiling. She had not been on skates in 28 years and bravely took advantage of the irresistible moment.

Last night I went for an early evening skate in the remaining hour of daylight saving time. Alone, amidst the muffled quiet of a winter evening, I could hear the ice groan and crack. Tom Cochrane’s song popped into my head. I hummed the tune to myself, fortunate to be able to enjoy nature’s work.

I felt oh, so Canadian, oh so grateful.

You never can tell what might come down
You never can tell when you might check out
You just don’t know, no, you never can tell
So do right to others like you do to yourself

*Big League – Tom Cochrane

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