The Gift of ‘Outside’

 

For Blissemas, I decided to talk about Christmas Past and the best Christmas gift ever in the history of Christmas gifts — the gift of Outside. That gift came topped with a bow, all wrapped up in a box with a pair of ice skates. Those ice skates changed everything for me, from the very first time I put them on and wobbled out onto the ice. Suddenly the fun moved outdoors for the winter, and I engaged with the cold deep months in northern Colorado in a way I never had before.

I lived in a very small town. With its three taverns, four churches, a general store and a bank, it was a gathering place for ranchers, miners and timber workers, not much more. There was a small skating rink that some of the local men had dug and paved. It was really just a scrape in an empty field. Next to the rink, they had built a three-sided shelter with benches for putting on skates. In the centre, they placed a fifty-five gallon barrel with the side cut out, which served as a stove to warm chilled noses and fingers. That was it really. But it quickly became my favourite place.

Skating was fun in the short hours of daylight, but I especially loved skating on those crystal clear nights when the moon was full and the air practically crackled as you breathed it. The snow shown like a sequined blanket covering the fields, and the mountains loomed on the horizon, hulking and tarnished silver dark.

I never wanted to leave. I remember skating on those glistening nights until I shivered all over and my fingers stung through my mittens in the bite of the sub-zero night. But being out there on a pair of ice skates was being out there because I wanted to be. It was completely different from rushing to school or the grocery store or some other place one rushed to all bundled up in down and wool and fleece-lined boots. It’s not that I had conquered nature. No one who lived in that climate was stupid enough to believe that. Every car, every pick-up truck, was equipped with tyre chains, a heavy blanket, a few chocolate bars and a snow shovel. My dad never went out on a long winter drive without a flask filled with hot, thick coffee. We all knew that in the battle with the elements, the northern Colorado winter would win every time. So we were prepared.

But the enemy was magically transformed into a friend on a pair of ice skates. Ice skates made me brave, made me feel a bit like I was walking next to a mountain lion or hugging a bear. The truce was tenuous and giddy and frighteningly delicious, whirling and twirling on the ice with the smell of wood smoke wafting from the barrel stove. Suddenly, at least for a little while, I was in it, I was a part of it. For a little while I could allow myself to revel in something so deadly that most of the time people were afraid to look it in the eye, lest they jinx themselves. But on ice skates, one played with fire, of the iciest kind, and the fire played back. On ice skates the cold winter became warmer somehow. Oh not physically warmer, never physically warmer, but still somehow a little more accommodating, a little more yielding. Or maybe we were all just a little more brazen, just a little more willing to risk a few more minutes while our fingers froze and our noses stung and our toes tingled through our thick woolen socks.

We swirled and danced and laughed always only a breath away from danger, always only a breath away from the killing cold. We all knew about freezing to death. You couldn’t live at 10,000 feet altitude and not know, not live with it every winter, every blizzard, every dangerous slip and slide on the icy roads, and the snow packed passes. But when we were on ice skates, while we danced and swirled, the winter danced and swirled with us, it embraced us, it caressed us, it gave us an intimate peek into something so magical, so elementally powerful that even now my heart races when I write about it, when I remember as a kid not understanding why I wanted to stay out way past comfort, why I wanted to feel its icy breath in my own lungs.

It’s fragility, that’s what it is, human fragility. We live daily with the fragility of our thin skin and our delicate insides, and we’re constantly making truces with our environment, but we very seldom ever actually connect with it. We very seldom even think of it other than as an inconvenience. But ice skates changed all of that. I was no less fragile, no less vulnerable, and the truce was still there. But with ice skates, something more was there as well. With ice skates I connected, I really connected to the fabulous, terrible, wonderful ‘Outside.’

I haven’t lived with deep edgy winters for a long time now. But every winter, when we get what little snow we do get here in south England, I think about ice skates. No, I don’t want to go to an indoor rink with piped-in music. That’s really not what it’s all about for me. For me, ice skates were for outside in the darkest harshest months of winter, on a frozen river or a frozen pond whenever possible. Ice Skates were the beginning for me, and after ice skates, well I’ve never really been the same.

Since I can’t give everyone ice skates to celebrate Blissemas, I’ll do the next best thing and give away a choice of a  PDF copy of either of my novels, The Initiation of Ms Holly, or The Pet Shop. Comment to win. All comments will be entered in the draw for the fabulous grand prize kindle at the end of Blissemas festivities.  Don’t miss out.

 

52 Responses to “The Gift of ‘Outside’”

  1. From someone who lives in South West England, and gets less snow than even South England, that was a lovely icy read but…

    I couldn’t trust a town that has more churches than taverns/pubs! 🙂

     
    • This town was in the Rocky Mountains, Isabella. Church attendance was small and pub attendance was NOT. And people very much had a live and let live attitude. Not waxing nostalgic, am I?

      Thanks for your lovely comment!

       
      • K D Grace
  2. What a beautiful post! I felt an appreciation for winter resting inside me as I read!

    To me, your post, K D, and the spirit of appreciation and connection I sense in it with winter really capture what I understand to be the spirit of winter as a season. I loved reading it, and thanks so much for sharing. 🙂

    Xoxoxo,
    Em

     
    • Emerald
    • Thanks, M! I’ve always loved winter, partly because of it’s the wild animal of the seasons. You can love it, but you have to respect it because it’s never tame, always tetchy and absolutely always amazing.

      Kxx

       
      • K D Grace
    • Thanks, Em! I’ve always loved winter, partly because of it’s the wild animal of the seasons. You can love it, but you have to respect it because it’s never tame, always tetchy and absolutely always amazing.

      Kxx

       
      • K D Grace
  3. Brrr, I feel cold just reading that! Beautiful post though, thanks for sharing!

     
    • Thanks, Victoria! Sounds like YOU need some ice skates…
      Or maybe just a warm cardi and a cup of hot cocoa?

       
      • K D Grace
  4. Wow, how utterly magical and spellbinding. Isn’t it funny how sometimes, you just don’t feel the cold?
    The gift of outside is now on the top of my list, thanks, Kd x

     
    • Tabitha
    • Thanks, Tabitha! Writing that has made me a bit nostalgic for deep snow, cold clear nights and ice skating on a pond. I’ll happily settle for windy, wet south England, great walks, warm pubs and good friends.

      Kx

       
      • K D Grace
  5. What a gorgeous post, K.D.! I grew up in New England, not quite so threatening as Colorado in the winter, but I have cherished memories of skating on the flooded basketball courts in one of the playgrounds. I don’t think I’ve ever skated at night, but I know that gorgeous hush that comes over the world, amid the snowy darkness, when the world seems carved out of crystal.

    Definitely bliss!

     
    • Thanks, Lisabet!

      Winter is truly magical, and I think winter nights, the most magical of all because their cold and dark and white and dangerously beautiful.

      Bliss, indeed!

       
      • K D Grace
  6. Great story. I now live in western Colorado and have not yet accepted the harshness of winter. I’ve been told we have mild winters here compared to the rest of the state. Thank you for embracing the season and it’s true beauty.

     
    • Judy S
    • Thanks for the comment Judy! I hope that you come to be at home in Colorado and enjoy the winters. Can’t recommend ice skates enough:)

       
      • K D Grace
  7. Your post reminds me of the 5 years we lived on the edge of a lake when I was in my tweens. We always used to skate in the winter and it was beautiful and in the summer we would canoe the lakes then down into the streams.

    **sigh**

     
    • Anne
    • **Sigh** indeed, Anne! It sounds like you had the very best of all seasons.

      Thanks for stopping by!

       
      • K D Grace
  8. Oh, that brought back such memories, of ice skating on non-rinks. Sometimes on the C & O Canal, when it froze over, and one winter we actually made a rink in land behind our house, by dragging a hose down to the floodplain and adding water every night. I don’t live in a cold enough area now for ice skating… shame! (Though I also don’t have to shovel sidewalks.)

     
    • Shar
    • Thanks Shar! It brought back so many memories while I wrote it. I was a girl scout, and we were always out ice skating or sledding in the winter. There’s a huge ice rink here at one of the big health club complexes, but it just wouldn’t be the same, would it?

       
      • K D Grace
  9. Great post! You give a whole new appreciation to winter! I love the first snowfall. So pretty! Your pictures are beautiful! Thanks for sharing! Wishing you a wonderful Christmas!
    shadowluvs2read(at)gmail(dot)com

     
    • Shadow
    • Thanks, Shadow! I love the first snowfall too. I seems to make everything more peaceful, somehow.

      Happy Christmas to you too!

       
      • K D Grace
  10. Lovely writing and beautiful memories…thanks!

     
    • Thanks, Suz! Glad you enjoyed it!

       
      • K D Grace
  11. I’ve only ever skated once and that was at an indoor rink, I only attended because the girl I absolutely adored at the time would be there and I hoped it’d be my chance to finally seduce her.

    It was packed, noisy and no fun! The girl of my dreams did help me up when I fell on my butt for the umpteenth time but had skated off into the arms of another by the time I plucked up the courage to talk to her *sigh*

    I do enjoy a winters night though, it does seem to have a unique atmosphere that is all it’s own.

     
    • Mitnik
    • Sorry that your only ice skating experience wasn’t a satisfying on, Mitnik. Not getting to skate outside and not getting the girl would definitely spoil it, especially after falling on your butt umpteen times. Glad it didn’t dampen your appreciation for winter nights, though.

       
      • K D Grace
      • Ahhh, wasn’t the first or last time I didn’t get the girl, but when I did I got the best so makes all those others times pale into insignificance really 😉

        I also appreciate those early morning hours of 1-4am when the rest of the world is asleep and inspiration seems to flow freely.

         
        • Mitnik
        • I did think of that, when I read your comment, Mitnik! You most certainly did get the best! The chick at the skating rink did you a favour by going off with someone else, didn’t she?

          Yes, those early hours are the best for inspiration, something magical about them, I think.

           
          • K D Grace
  12. I am not a big fan of winter but I have to admit it is magical when snow is on the ground especially on Christmas Day. Please enter me in contest. Tore923@aol.com

     
    • Victoria Zumbrum
    • Consider yourself entered, Victoria! And I hope you have a fabulous Christmas, white or otherwise!

       
      • K D Grace
  13. I remember going sledding and ice skating in the winter. Those were fun times. I’ve always thought Christmas in small towns to be really cozy because everyone knows each other. Happy Holidays!

     
    • Na S.
    • The skating and sledding were some of my best memories too, Na S. Thanks for the post, and Happy Holidays!

       
      • K D Grace
  14. Living on the eastern side of Lake Michigan, we’ve always gotten our fair share of snow & then some. I think it’s beautiful to look at, from inside a warm house, but I do not enjoy being out in it for any length of time. I never tried to ice skate. Maybe I would feel differently about winter, if I had learned, but I had too much trouble staying upright on roller skates, so the idea of trying to balance on a blade of steel, just didn’t seem like something I would be any good at.

    drainbamaged.gyzmo at gmail.com

     
    • Kathryn Merkel
    • Thanks for the comment, Kathryn! I’ve certainly done my share of enjoying the beauty of winter from inside a warm house looking out the window with a steaming cup of coffee between my hands. Even thinking about it makes me smile. Happy Holidays to you!

       
      • K D Grace
  15. Hi K.D.,
    thank you for a wonderful post and reminding me of all the things i loved growing up. i grew up in Wyoming and Idaho and so we also had a ton of snow in the winter. i remember some of my class mates had to drive snowmobiles into the main roads to catch the bus because their roads were inaccesible.
    although i was not good at ice skating we did alot of sledding and tubbing. every snow day and weekend my dad and uncle (he was a truck driver) would hook up innertubes to the back of his truck and drive us around the empty field next door. it was so much fun! when we got older we were allowed to drive the snowmobiles and that made it even more fun. thank you again and i hope you and you family have a Happy Holiday Season.

    trvlagnt1t@yahoo.com

     
    • tammy ramey
    • I spent some of my youth in Wyoming too, Tammy! Right next to the Colorado border. Done my share of innertubing behind a pick-up truck! I remember coming in cold and wet and Mom having hot cocoa ready for us. Fabulous times! Thanks for your comment, Tammy, and Happy Holidays to you too!

       
      • K D Grace
  16. Great post, Missus! You took me into your world for a while there, and what a fab world it is too! R x

     
    • Thanks, Rebecca! I’m so happy to get to share my world with you!

      Kx

       
      • K D Grace
  17. Thanks for such a sweet post! I live in Nebraska and still think of Winter as the enemy. Perhaps I should try my hand at skating?.

    Thanks for the giveaway and a new way of viewing this time of year!

    joderjo402 AT gmail DOT com

     
    • Joder
    • Thanks for the comment, Joder! Whether you take up skating or sledding or just enjoy from the window with a cup of cocoa, I hope that you make friends with winter. It’s too cool of a season (no pun intended) not to enjoy.
      All the best for the Holiday Season!

       
      • K D Grace
  18. I live in Iowa and we get snow but I never got the hang of ice skating. I am not corordinated enough 🙂

    ~Brandy
    brandyzbooks at yahoo dot com

     
    • Brandy'z Books
    • Thanks for the comment, Brandy! There are lots of other great ways to enjoy the spirit of winter other than ice skating! Enjoy! And happy Holidays!

       
      • K D Grace
  19. i love the pic we will have that soon but i do
    not skate but the snow is great

     
    • desiree
    • Enjoy the snow, then Desiree! You don’t have to skate to appreciate it! Happy Holidays! And thanks for the comment!

       
      • K D Grace
  20. I enjoyed reading your memories of winters past. I can’t take the winter but I think it’s beautiful when it snows and you most certainly better have a great respect for Mother Nature. 🙂 Thanks KD. Happy Holidays.

     
    • Carol L
    • Thanks for the comment, Carol! Wishing you all the best this holiday season!

       
      • K D Grace
  21. Such lovely snowy pictures! Sadly this year’s winter in England is looking disappointingly mild…

     
    • True, J.C. It’s shaping up wet and windy here, which is pretty typical of this time of year. The last couple of years were the exception. Thanks for the comment.

       
      • K D Grace
  22. I loved your post! It reminded me of my best
    Christmas ever. My mother (santa) bought me a pair of ice skates. The picture she took of me opening them is the best ever the happiness/joy showing on my face is priceless. I used those skates at the rink, on the pond where every I could find ice. I wore them out before I could grow out of them. Thanks for the reminder of my best ever Christmas.

     
    • Debbie S
    • Thanks for the comment, Debbie. I’m so glad to see someone else had such a great experience with ice skates. Sadly I’ve not been on them for years, but have no desire to skate in an indoor rink with a gazillion other people. It just wouldn’t be the same.

      Happy Holidays, to you, and all the best in the new year!

       
      • K D Grace
  23. Lovely post and pictures. Snow is so pretty. I could sit for hours and watch it fall. Its peaceful and seems to cleanse the earth. I adore the snow, the cold…not so much. lol
    tonyapeterson35(at)yahoo(dot)com

     
    • Tonya
    • Me too, Tanya. I love to watch it snow. Happy Holidays to you!

       
      • K D Grace
  24. I have never ice skated before. You make it sound so wonderful. I just might have to try it out. Thanks for sharing and Merry Christmas! christina_92 at yahoo.com

     
    • Christy
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