I fear that one of America’s oldest forms of social recreation may be fading into the mist of history. I hope I’m wrong. In winter, fresh air is just as important to the body & mind as it is at any other time of the year. And, in this farmgirl’s opinion, we need to get out and breathe it in deeply … skates or no skates.
Not only do we need to breathe deeply the fresh air of winter, we need laughter in winter. Some things generate laughter as if by magic and ice skating is one of those things! Born of necessity in ancient times, ice skating made getting around easier in the winter. Making winter a little easier to cope with qualified the invention of ice skates as a stroke of genius. And, it happened very early in human history. The earliest skates discovered used not metal for blades, but oxen bone. No part of life was easy in early human history, but laughter has been as much a part of our make-up as struggle. Well, it should be anyway. It is good that we’ve been laughing at ourselves and each other for forever.
I gotta believe that ice skating, as a form of recreation, happened very early too … perhaps when some mangy old primitive was skating over a crusty pond on his crude bone skates and suddenly tripped over a twig which resulted in splattering him on the ice and scattering his armful of firewood. Certainly, his fur-clad clan members didn’t watch with straight faces. You know they were cracking up! Then, they helped him up and gathered his wood … we hope. I’ll bet while they were standing around the fire roasting some beast whole (early backyard BBQ) and drinking fermented God knows what, and after passing the grogg around awhile, they got a wild notion to strap on their bone skates and do what silly people do … play. Pretty soon, everyone wanted a pair of skates! They weren’t just for work anymore :o) Wild speculation on my part … but, someone invented getting silly on the ice and turned it into sport and it certainly wasn’t a serious soul. Next thing ya know, they were making skates to sell.
And sell they did. Civilized folks all over Europe discovered skating and went wild over it. Ice skating was a welcome social outing similar to summertime recreating in the parks and along scenic waterways.
They were skating in Russia at night, in Scotland on Duddington Loch, and on the Thames.
Currier & Ives created this charming glimpse of winter recreation in early America.
Folks were skating in Central Park long before the skyline was populated by tall buildings (below). But, after the tall buildings appeared, ice skating continued. Even today, you can ice skate in downtown New York City.
Another human trait came into play somewhere along the way in skating history. Those who are good at a thing, turn it into art … and we are mesmerized by the beauty of their expertise. They were gifted athletes that put blades on the bottoms of their ballet slippers. And, those who were more into speed than acrobatic skill, pursued speed skating. It was a no-brainer that men would go there. Fellas will race anything that can move. But, in all of it, the bottomline is the same … we’re just out to have some fun.
Beauty and sport go hand in hand, especially in ice-skating. Skates are magic! By ourselves, we’re humiliatingly awkward on the ice. On skates, however, we can glide with grace. It takes practice, to be sure, but it can be done and if it were exceedingly difficult the sport would never have become so popular. Almost anyone with enough ‘want to’ … can! This country, like every other country that is frozen over during the winter embraced ice-skating.
If you were an avid skater as a child, I bet you remember this: playing ‘whip’ – below. Everyone took their turn being at the end of the whip and getting popped off when the group got up to speed and turned sharply!
Sure, skating is fun, but in bygone days it was also important to be stylish! Grown-ups being what they are, care a lot about their appearance. If you can skate well, you sure want to look good doing it. And, if you can’t skate worth a darn, at least you can look spiffy. Nothing new about that either – the Victorians thought it was important to wear the right garments for every occasion - be it equestrian oriented or on the ice. After all, a skating party is a party and you dress for a party.
Around Christmas (this past), I tried in vain to hunt up and locate my old skates. Not to actually wear, but to decorate with … hang them on a wreath. I have such fond memories of skating. I think I would still like to skate, but as a result of my injury last year, I acquired a bolded respect for ice. When I fell on our icey driveway last February, every tendon that held my knee together exploded. Thank God I live in a time when such an injury can be completely repaired. But, I am just now walking without a limp and confident on my feet again. I watch where I step with keen attention. Ice skating? Ohhhhhhh, now that is a stretch! Maybe next winter. ‘Discretion is the better part of valor’. Here, below, is a collection of images of me at various times in my life on those silvery blades. The last photo is an idea for my safe return to gliding across the ice next winter.
As you can plainly see, I was a fearless hot-dog skater. I know those days are over, but I do love the feeling of tightening up your skates, gliding around the pond and giggling at the spills. Apre` skating is great too … oh yea, hot toddies that warm you down to your frigid toes.
This also, I’m entering the a latter phase of mid-life and there are a few pleasant things that come with it. Being a contented observer. I enjoy watching others enjoy themselves … more. We do some of that at every age, but I can see now that you get better at it after you’ve got more silver hair than colored hair. Ice-skating gets better with practice, but there are some things that get better with age. If I skate less and watch more, it’ll be ok. Do those of you close to my age feel that way too?
The thing is, never let go of the ability to enjoy. Having fun is something you can find at any age as long as you’re still looking.
On a little different note, but still having to do with ice, my horse and I had an adventure on the ice yesterday.
No, I didn’t skate with her, I rode her :o) I couldn’t resist the cheesy photoshop pic above, sorry. We ride very little in the winter, but our friends needed some help moving their cattle a short ways and then loading them onto semi- trucks so that the cattle could be hauled to better pasture. I rode very little this past year (due to the knee injury), thus I was eager to get out of the house. It was only 20 degrees at 7AM and I was dressed to look more like the Pillsbury Doughboy than a cowboy. There isn’t much snow this year, but what we lack in snow we more than make up for in ice. It is flat treacherous out there and a thin layer of new snow covered the ice. I had to talk myself into going. They could have gotten along without me, but that’s not the point. I wanted to be of help and I need to work on my fear of the ice. My horse, bless her heart, was sooo careful. She doesn’t want to fall either! The cattle walked slowly for the same reason. We all carefully pegged along and no one fell … escept for a few cows. And, I had fun!! Really. I think one of the reasons I stayed warm was because of something that I remember as a kid: when you’re having fun, you don’t seem to get chilled as easily. Remember??
So, although I’m not going to be skating this winter, I did get out and get some of that fresh air I spoke about earlier. Whatever it takes … get out and get yourself some – skates or no skates. As my Dad used to say to us kids when we got too rowdy in the house in the winter, “Go outside and blow the stink off!” That is my parting thought, ’nuff said ;o)