My neighborhood’s best feature is a village park that hosts concerts and festivals in summer, ice skating in winter.
The pond, when conditions are right and it’s been cleared of snow at the right time, is just about perfect for ice skating. It’s not smooth like indoor rinks that have a Zamboni to put a shine on it, but if you know where the pond’s ruts and weak spots are, there’s nothing better.
Especially at night.
I don’t skate much anymore, but I drove by the pond last night because I saw the floodlights. A cluster of what looked like dads and young kids congregated, enjoying the fresh air and perhaps learning or improving skating skills.
It brought me back to when my boys were younger, and I’d take them to the pond to pass along my meager skating and hockey talents. That was mostly on weekends, during the daytime, when unofficial boundaries were set up to separate casual skaters from more adventurous types playing shinny.
It was a success: None of my boys lost a tooth or an eye, and they decided organized hockey wasn’t for them. So I saved a lot of money and parental angst.
Some nights, I’d go to the pond by myself and just skate.
The floodlights stayed on fairly late, and if I was lucky I’d have the whole pond to myself. There’s an island in the middle so I could do lap after lap, comforted by the sound of the skate blades churning up the ragged ice as I solved the world’s problems in my head. Or tried to.
Skating on rough ice is hard work, so it usually didn’t take long for fatigue to set in and my quadriceps to let me know they’d had enough.
I’d skate slowly over to the bench at the pond’s edge and undo the stiff laces with bare fingers, now sweaty from a good workout. I’d sit there longer than the task required, watching my breath form condensation in the night air.
A chill would set in as my sweat started to cool, and I’d head to my car. I hadn’t solved any of the world’s problems, but for the moment my own didn’t seem so daunting.