Today it was so nice that I went ice skating. I bought new skates in December, but it has been too cold to give them a proper try. I am learning that re-engaging ice skating is much scarier for a sixty year old woman than one in her teens or twenties. Having said that—it was a sunny, gorgeous, fresh, cheek-pinking day. As amazing as it sounds, I was doing better than the other few skaters that were there. I tentatively skated for fifteen minutes or so finding my feet and legs and then my body seemed to remember how to make a few turns. I only bruised my knee one time!
Skating for me was such a delight when I was a kid. I can still remember my dad using two of his belts to hold up my younger brothers as he skated along. The belts were tucked under their armpits—snowsuits and bundling scarves made them look like little bunnies. We lived up in Babbitt when I was younger and we did not believe in giving up to the cold. We wanted to skate, sled, make snow forts, have snowball fights—all the fun stuff of winter. And up in Babbitt it was sometimes brutally cold. (Actually not unlike what we have been having here this winter.) When we came inside my mom would make us hot chocolate and mounds of buttered toast cut into little triangles.
I remember one time my dad decided to try to save a little money so he sharpened all of our skates with a grinder or something. When we all hit the ice again it was like a vaudeville show—multiple snow bunnies slipping and falling and tumbling and tossing around on the ice with absolutely no control. He had ground off the hollow ground of our figure skates and reduced the sharp tips to dull nubs.
My dad was a creator. He loved to see if he could figure something out. One time the track blew on our old yellow Skidoo and I remember him down on his knees with a hammer and chisel trying to cut a new track for the poor beast. I don’t even remember if that attempt was successful.
When I was in junior high, he was very unhappy at Reserve Mining. He had the chance to buy a lumber yard in Cass Lake and he took the chance. I still marvel at his nerve—he picked up his family of eight children and moved away not really knowing how it would all turn out. We moved into a tiny house in Cass Lake that had one bathroom and rooms as small as postage stamps. All five boys were in a back room that had a frigid little sunroom attached. I am not even sure what worries my parents had had, or what fears, or what kind of risk they actually took in moving us to a new town. I knew that we were not wealthy, but I don’t honestly ever remember hearing them talk in front of us about money. I think my Mom was happy to be back in Cass Lake close to her mom and sister, just like I am now happy to be back here with my sister and brothers.
After my dad died, Mom showed me a slip of paper that she said he had carried in his wallet his entire adult life. It was thin and worn. On the slip of paper were two quotes:
Man is buffeted by circumstances so long as he believes himself to be the creature of outside conditions, but when he realizes that he is a creative power, and that he may command the hidden soil and seed of his being out of which circumstances grow, he then becomes the rightful master of himself.
I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure which is: Try to Please Everybody. –Herbert B. Swope
This explains a lot to me both about his willingness to risk and about the attitudes and grit he gave to his children. It is quite a shadow to stand in.
I’ve been writing this month about how to create a future that is zestful and rich. I learned a long time ago that I often teach what I most need to learn. This continues to be true and probably always will. Sometimes I just need to stop everything that I’m doing and ask body and soul—What do I want? What would that future look like, feel like, taste like . . . . If we have to go back to the drawing board again and again in our lives, so what! That is what makes it all so very interesting.
As much as I love working with students again, I want to find a way to teach without a restrictive schedule that cuts into travel and creative time. I’ll have to put that one on the drawing board . . . .