Of Woods and Words: A Season of Diversions

Ice Skating
Ice Skating

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For many people, making it through the long Minnesota winter is all about diversionary tactics. In my opinion, the holiday season comes far too soon after winter’s beginning to do much good. Sure, things are a whirlwind of giftwrap, eggnog, and tinsel for a while. But just like that, the holidays are going to disappear with a poof on New Year’s Day, leaving us with what could easily be four more months of ice and snow to navigate through sans holiday cheer.

Granted, the quiet stillness of winter is a perk in and of itself. It’s the time when many Northwoods residents get to charge their batteries. In the long evening hours, I tackle larger knitting projects, plan the next summer’s garden, and often, as the night wears on, the cabin starts to smell like fresh chocolate chip cookies.

But you can only spend so much time cooped up inside, focused on silent, solitary pursuits. After a while, after you’ve finished that sweater, winter just starts to get long. Sometimes we need just a little extra something to push us through the short days. I suppose this is why some people cross-country ski, but to be honest, I find cross-country skiing a physical activity far too akin to running. I just can’t justify engaging in an exercise for the sole reason that “it feels so good when you stop.” If my main motivation is stopping, why bother starting at all?

In my family, our winter diversion of choice has always been ice-skating. But since moving up the Trail, and if I’m being completely honest, since heading off to college, I’ve found it tricky to make it to an ice rink with any regularity. The best bet for getting regular skating in during the winter is keeping a little patch of ice free of snow in the bay, but that’s trickier than it sounds.

Last year’s lake freeze-up came during a snowstorm, making the ice unskate-able from the get-go. In the last couple weeks, Andy and I have been holding our breath to see if this year’s freeze-up might bring more favorable skating conditions. Wonder of all wonders, the bay froze over during a string of snowless days, covering the lake with a smooth, clear pane of ice.

Of course, right when the ice was perfect, we left for the weekend and while we were gone, it snowed. Undeterred, almost as soon as we returned, Andy headed out to shovel out an ice rink. The ice must be kept snow-free to prevent slush and cracks forming. When Andy finished shoveling, we took a spin on the newly cleared ice.

But then the wind kicked up overnight, forming packed drifts in the corners of the rink. More shoveling. The next day, a dusting of snow fell. We headed out with brooms to sweep the rink clear.

To date we’ve spent more time shoveling the little ice rink then actually skating on it. But that’s the thing about winter diversions. It’s not what you do that matters. It’s that you’re doing something that makes all the difference.

Airdate: December 14, 2011

Photo courtesy of mhartford via Flickr.

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