Monday, January 09, 2006

the world's biggest skating rink

I feel so Canadian. No, I didn't go to the advance polls and take part in the democratic process.

I went skating on the world's largest outdoor skating rink.

Those of you who know me will know this is significant. This is my 5th winter in Ottawa and 2nd time on the canal. I am grateful to friends who dragged my unwilling butt out onto the canal last year and encouraged me into a pair of skates. Luckily for me there was an ice-wary mother in our group who wanted to ride in a little push-sleigh - I volunteered to push her so I would have something to hang on to. After a time my friends pried me away from the sleigh and I expected at any moment to go crashing to the ice - bruising knees and pride.

Surprisingly I managed to remain on my feet and to my amazement, realized I could grow to enjoy this treacherous sport. Done right, it looks so graceful. I resolved to try again next winter.

So this weekend the canal opened. V and I went to a used sporting goods place and joined the crowds buying and sharpening skates. A young blond guy - with that weary look of a pro dealing with idiots - picked out a pair of old skates for me. They felt stiff as wood, but apparently that is how they should be? Having no better opinion of my own, I accepted his and bought them.

The ice conditions were "fair". The canal was crowded. There are benches on the ice beside stairs leading down from the street. V and I inexpertly donned our skates and rose to our wobbly feet. Left our boots under the bench, counting on the goodwill of fellow skaters.

Fortunately V is as confident a skater as I, so we stumbled along together and felt no shame. Large cracks in the ice and patches of pebble-like unevenness made us both stutter step and weave, but I am proud to say we both managed to remain on our feet and even picked up a bit of speed.

We skated down to Dow's Lake. Trucks were on the ice clearing large paths in the light layer of slow. Skaters of all ages and abilities surrounded us. Parents pulled toboggans and red wagons with bundled children aboard. Fearless kids zipped around, fell and jumped up again. I admired all those moving with even, effortless strides. This is something to aspire to.

We rewarded ourselves with hot chocolate - which V insisted he couldn't drink and skate at the same time. My feet were hurting by the time we got back to our boots. I was aware of certain muscles in my legs I haven't felt in awhile. And I felt great. My Canadian blood was warm and tingling.

So if you happen to be out on the canal this winter you may see me clumping along. But before you get too close - I should warn you that I can't yet stop.

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