Downtown is, as a rule, less crowded on Monday. And, since it’s summer, the light lingers longer in the evenings. Two explorers have agreed to spend their Monday evenings exploring the workings of downtown. One explorer is decidedly less familiar with the area, but is excited because she has discovered new places to experience. Most notably, a coffee/book shop that’s taken over the ground floor of the old city hall. The architecture is stately, but not ornate. The book shop is on the right and bleeds into the coffee shop on the left, at the back. Old books, not for sale, decorate the walls. The coffee shop offers hard, straight-backed chairs and tables. One explorer discovers that the couches on the left side are free. She missed them because they were occupied on her first visit. One couch is a big, squishy ordeal of fake leather. It smells ever so slightly of mildew. You sink deep into the cushions when you sit on it, and it’s almost like you’re sitting on the floor, only much more comfortable. The other couch is a light colored fabric, tattered in places. Both couches are obviously old, worn, and well-used.
I went ice skating the other day. I’m not a phenomenal skater; in fact, I’m pretty much an abysmal skater, though I’ve finally reached the point where I can go at least 20 feet without losing my balance.
But there’s something about ice skating; if you haven’t been, or you don’t like feeling out of control, then you won’t know what I’m talking about. But there’s something about ice skating. Sure, it’s hard, your ankles hurt, it’s cold, and if you fall, you’ll be sore for all of next week, and there’s that constant terror of everyone else on the rink, know what I mean? The percentages of people on the ice are all mixed up; you usually wind up with 20% knowing how to skate very well, 20% knowing how to skate decently, 50% who are getting on the ice for the first time in their lives (from kids to 40-somethings), and 10% who, despite being on the ice before, for one reason or another should never be there again (either they have no self-control, or they have no innate sense of balance). Everyone is zipping around at insane speeds, and you have no idea if they’re in a state of controlled motion, or if they are careening in whatever direction they happen to be going at that moment because they don’t know how to stop. And then there are the tiny people everywhere, and the last thing you want to do is lose control and wipe out an innocent child because of your incompetence.
But there’s something about ice skating.
When you get the feel of it for the first time. Not the feel of careening into a wall, but the feeling of gliding, smoothly and effortlessly across the ice. You feel graceful and free, with the wind flowing around you endlessly. You come to the end of the rink and you slide along, following the motion of all of the other skaters, as you go round and round, synchronizing with everybody else as you all create a unique dance, and you feel as if you could go on forever…
And then the person in front of you collides with somebody else, they both wipe out and you trip over them, or you trip over your toe pick, or you loose your balance because you got a little too excited with that last turn, and you land unceremoniously on your rump, or your hand, or elbow, or knees, or whatever you happened to land on last.
But it was that feeling that you had for a glorious 20 seconds that you absolutely must have again. You get up, excitedly, thinking, “I definitely have it this time; I can get that feeling again.” Maybe you do, maybe you don’t; but you have the taste now. You’ve got to know how to join that dance.
And that feeling is what makes me go ice skating again and again. Not because I’m good at it, but because I want to fly. And that’s what made me ride a waterfall when I didn’t know how to swim and go galloping when I wasn’t 100% sure that I’d be capable of stopping the horse. I want to fly.