Digging Those Blades Into The Ice, Sometimes Solo

It’s the New Year, so will it be the New You? Sounds like too tall an order, probably. A better bet will most likely be nourishing our own sense of at-home-ness within ourselves. Sure, we can and probably should do some minor repairs, address our flaws, try to meet a higher standard; but essentially, we’re stuck with our very own personhood. Can we think of new ways to flourish, sometimes depending on not another soul?

It’s here that I’ll make a kind of pivot. That’s a word in vogue these days, but one that nonetheless keeps reminding me (substituting a “d” for the initial “p”) of my parents on the golf course, replacing the clumps of earth after their drives. Switching sports—after all, it’s winter—I’m going to lace up my skates in a moment, but this time with my Memoir-in-Progress hat on.

Picking up from where I was before all the holiday kerfuffle (a word integral to my new favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavor), I’ll have to say that the Fire and Ice debate was, around here anyway, decidedly won by Ice.

Getting last week’s snow on top of that unrelenting frigidity was kind of like putting icing on the Cake of Cold, wasn’t it?

Some of us had no problem with the weather at all. Then again, those of us who tend towards a “play” mindset rarely give any indications of problems in the first place.



But for most of us New Englanders, this week feels like the Dawn of a New Age. And the best part, if you ask me, is that the snow and the ice are still there! With temperatures rising just enough, we can finally really enjoy being outside.

Today I plan to take White Park, here in Concord, up on its offer…





Not to be over-enthusiastic or anything, but skating yesterday was one of the best decisions I’ve made in recent history. Pressing errands just had to wait. I had autonomy. Conditions were perfect— full sunshine, plus adequate cold. The only people there when I arrived were some town workers with a truck, who said, “Go for it!” Thrilled by having the best free pass in town, I made my first couple of loops on the ice totally alone. But then, another woman was on the ground with her gear…a friend! Someone I used to play some hockey with, in fact. So we skated together for a while, catching up on family members, jobs, our exercise habits. When she had to leave, I stayed for a bit, savoring the fact that I’d had the best of both worlds: skating alone, and skating together.

That slice of time brought back to me, in a rush, as if the moments had all been mine to begin with, so many earlier times on ponds that multiple members of my family had enjoyed.



Nowadays, immersed as I am in this book-writing project, I can’t help but see the benefits of both going deeply into my own truth and finding the best way of sharing kernels of that truth for others who might, in turn, have reason to illuminate their own truths more fully. There’s an alone component, and there’s a together one.

For support, in addition to the ten people I’m with in a multi-month class, I have Michel de Montaigne, the 16th century French essayist who unabashedly wrote about a range of everyday experiences and his varying states of mind almost as if they were clouds skittering across the sky. In the centuries since, millions of readers keep seeing their own humanity reflected in his work. Sure, he’s a dead white guy, but he actually did a lot more thinking than you might expect from someone who wore these fancy clothes.



A couple of weeks ago, while visiting my brother’s family right next to where I grew up, I had a completely solo skating experience. Having spent the morning visiting a high school friend, I arrived back at the outdoor rink (which many local kids enjoy through the winter) just as my kids and my niece were finishing up their hockey scrimmaging. The Patriots game was about to begin, and it was lunchtime. Oh no, I thought at first, I blew it…missed watching them, playing with them. But then I came to my senses. The music was still playing — Creedence Clearwater Revival – and the ice was still fine. It was my turn now.

Something about that next half hour, when I realized there wasn’t anywhere else I needed to be, that I could do whatever I pleased, including try to recover with no pressure the back cross-overs I first attained back in college, gave me a sense that I was ravenous just to live. John Fogerty’s voice serenaded my figure eights:


Yesterday and days before

Sun is cold and rain is hard

I know been that way for all my time

‘Til forever, on it goes

Through the circle, fast and slow,

I know it can’t stop, I wonder


My own circles were pretty slow, but that didn’t matter at all. I can’t recall a recent time when I’d had more of a sense of flow, of being in the moment, fully content.  It was, in a way, akin to those times when I lose myself while writing because the truth quietly takes over. Maybe, in fact, that’s why these completely solitary segments do not bring any lonesomeness with them at all. Even though at first we might miss the element of togetherness we think we want, in fact we discover that our cup runneth over with precisely the simplicity of what we have.

Wishing you all thousands of glimmering moments – on ice or snow, in water as well as on dry land; all by yourself and with others too– throughout the coming year.


One Response

  1. Annie H.
    | Reply

    Thanks for this post, Polly, It made me nostalgic for skating and for White Park. That is where I learned to skate as a kid with my sibs. We spent hours and hours there. One of my brothers broke his leg there – while skating down a hill with another brother on his shoulders (Darwin award). During winter breaks from UNH we met old friends there to play boot hockey.

    I think of Joni Mitchel’sl song lyric…”I wish I had a river I could skate away on…” when I do my circles.


Leave a Reply