Skating on natural ice – Meditating on nature

The wonder of ice on a lake: it will sing when people skate on it. It’s the sound of the ice vibrating. A unique sound. Grey skies and the white of the ice on the trees and the dark colours of the trees around the lake (without any leaves).

Skating in Holland
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For the first time in years we’ve had some time of freezing temperatures in day and night time. This doesn’t sound too good – but to Dutch people it means that we can skate on natural ice again. I did so yesterday and this morning. Skating on natural ice is quite the national hobby – all the more special as one can really only do it when the weather is ‘good’. We haven’t had seriously skating weather for years. Some were already saying that climate change would make an entire generation of Dutch kids grow up without learning to skate outside.

Yesterday my mom and I skated on an outside skating ring. That is: a field left under water. The outside temperature froze the water and people from all around came by car and bike to skate there. Today we did the real thing: we skated on a small lake. Shallow water is safer to skate on at first, so the larger lake that’s also near my parents house (where I’m typing this) isn’t yet safe to ice skate on.

The experience of skating on natural ice is like nothing else I’ve ever done. The ice of that lake was that black of real good ice. Some air bubbles trapped in the ice make it possible here and there to see how deep the ice went: some two inches at the least (5 cm I think) – at some places three inches. That’s a good layer of ice, so we dared skate on it. There were about a dozen people skating on the lake.

As I was skating all my experience with it came back. I saw how black the ice was and knew it was good. I saw the cracks and knew not to worry. I felt the ice crack when skating over it – and again knew it was nothing to worry about. My muscles protested at the new movements, but they also (after some resting in between) knew just how to skate as fast as possible. I even remembered how to do corners – when I wasn’t too tired.

My physical stamina really isn’t good, but I skate faster than my mom on short stretches (partly because I have better skates). Yet my mom did three rounds for my two. She just keeps going. I rest in between as cramps take over… I used to be bothered by that, but this time it was just part of the experience. Growing up is a real treat on stuff like that 🙂

During the second round I noticed that in places where I’d dare go to the shore of the lake to sit and rest between the trees there was water on the ice. This meant I no longer trusted those spots: the fact is, it was thawing ever so slightly. This didn’t make the ice go bad immediately and was in fact perfect skating weather: not too cold.

Where’s the meditation in all this? Just sitting on the shore looking out on the ice, the trees, the sky was a joy. Dealing with the cramps and the occasional bursts of fluent skating was an exercise in concentration. The combination of dealing with the body sense and the beauty and my breath (I still have to blow my nose more often than normal because of my nose issues) was a unique experience. If meditation is about facing yourself, something like this is excellent. It made memories of previous ice skating trips come back, while also keeping me focussed on the here and now – precisely because my body was so not ready to do this at all.

All and all and experience was one I could not stop myself writing about. I learned skating as a little girl on a small lake in our neighbourhood. I’ve done skating tour trips with my mom in the past. It’s a real mom and daughter family tradition based in a long time Dutch tradition. I wonder how many more such trips we’ll be able to make together. Whether the climate will cooperate…

2 thoughts on “Skating on natural ice – Meditating on nature”

  1. I love this post. Beautifully written. (I recently discovered your blog and am de-lurking now. Hi.)

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