It was minus ten and too cold to go down to the pond last week, but the wind was light, so I went anyway. It was the fourth day of a hard-biting February cold snap when I grabbed my skates and a hockey stick and a thermos of coffee and prepared to take to the ice.
A Perfect Sunday
I sat on my little overturned rowboat and put on my skates. Then I threw two pucks on the ice and stepped out onto what was an almost perfect pond. This was something I hadn’t done in years.
You can go a long time without a good day for skating on the pond. You need warm weather and rain and then really, really cold weather without snow. About 25 years ago there was a day in February when the pond was just as a sheet of polished glass as smooth as Mile One. My whole family was down at the time. Sometimes on cold days now we still talk of it. It was a Sunday.
This week it all flooded back when I skated and the thing that struck me first was the peculiar sound. It was mid-morning and there was no one out yet. I had seen ATVs the day before in the middle of the pond. I knew it was safe. To tell the truth after 40 years I know that pond like the back of my hand.
There are but two places where water flows in and one place where it flows out. The sounds that I had forgotten since last I skated were clean and cold. There is first the silence. It is a quiet that you can only know in the woods. Thoreau knew and so did Robert Frost. For me it was a silence quietly nudged but not shattered by the sound of my skate blades cutting into the hard ice. There is a purity to it. There is too the lovely click of a puck and hockey stick on the ice.
Winter is Eternal
I shot the puck and skated after it and then shot it again and listened to it. When I had travelled about a kilometre up the ice in the cold air, I stopped and sat on a wharf. There is nothing quite like it in the world. It was quiet in a way I can’t describe. I could hear myself breathe. In my jacket was the thermos of coffee. It was the best thing I ever tasted.
The pond in winter is eternal. Houses change. People come and go. Once there were five in my family skating. Today there was just me. The pond though is the same. There is the sound of the ice. You can hear it. You can hear the water under it gurgle. It is unnerving unless you are used to it. Sometimes when it is cold you can hear a crack. The first time I heard that was many years ago. I skated last week and played with pucks for an hour or more and I had several two-kilometre breakaways. It was a wonderful cold morning.
NTV’s Jim Furlong can be reached by emailing: [email protected]