January 13th, 2010


Winter wonders

My icon today is deceiving. It's the only ice skating icon I have, and I did go ice skating today, but I not once, not once!, fell on my ass.

The lovely downtown park in Houston, Discovery Green, has an ice rink during the holiday season. It opens up somewhere around Thanksgiving, and it closes this weekend. My group of friends went last year to great success and fun, but for whatever reason, we were unable to get organized this year to do it.

Late last week, I had a conversation with my mom about the Netherlands. Like a shit ton of other countries in the northern hemisphere, the Netherlands was hit with an arctic blast and the canals have started freezing over. We chatted a bit about how the how the canals have frozen and the dutch have flocked to the ice. Apparently, the 200km race through Holland will probably not happen this year, though. There's too much snow right now, though I suppose that could change. At any rate, my mom and I made a date to go ice skating before Discovery Green closed down the ice, and tonight, with Claudia and Graham joining us on the ice and Jose and my dad watching from the stands, we glided.

It was a lovely night. I think it was probably in the 50s to 40s, but we were fairly comfortable. There weren't that many people on the ice, especially compared to last year. We skated for a few laps, and then we had to wait for a Zamboni pass. Fifteen minutes into the second run, I asked my mom how she was doing. She figured earlier in the evening that it'd been about 20 years since she'd been on the ice. She replied that she was getting back into the hang of it, but she hadn't tried skating backwards or doing flips yet. I told her that so long as I was gliding more or less forward unaided, I considered myself back to form. I suppose there's a fundamental difference in one's perspective of ice skating if one grew up on a river that froze every year versus going to the rink a few times as a kid in a mall.

My greatest joy of the evening was watching a Hispanic kid, maybe five or six, skating by himself. It was clear that he loved being on the ice. He didn't stop very often to take breaks, and his parents were taking all sorts of pictures of him from the sidelines. His sister, a little older, stayed close to the walls, in case she lost her balance, and she'd stop every now and then by the parents to check in. But he didn't care about falling. And he fell quite a bit. He was essentially running on the ice, bringing one foot in front of the other. His forward momentum was the only thing keeping him up, and every time his feet stopped moving, he'd fall down. He hadn't figured out his balance and how to glide or turn. The ice was his enemy, not something that he could use to help him propel forward. He probably lapped the ice scores of times, and I can only imagine that he's sleeping very soundly tonight. But his determination to keep going, no matter how many times he fell, was inspiring. Sometimes he'd make it around the ice a few times without falling, but usually he only had the energy to keep continuously moving for a lap or so. But it was clear that he loved it.

I'm happy to report that my skating was more or less good, by my standards. I didn't fall, I didn't even really lose balance. As the session wore on, I grew more comfortable on skates, though the rentals weren't all that tight around my ankles as I would have liked. And since I didn't get to the gym today due to a lunchtime lecture I had to give, I felt like at least I got some exercise today.

Most of the other people on the ice were older. Couples skating or small groups of friends. There were a few other kids, but it was a school night and it was towards the late end of the evening. We stopped skating when a few raindrops started falling, though I don't think it ever rained.