Susan Dromey Heeter's Down to Earth: Skating in circles, finding joy in winter

BY SUSAN DROMEY HEETER March 17. 2014 3:10PM

It's been a good winter for skating, for pretending I'm doing my Olympic short program with my blades beneath my feet, my dog by my side. (We're kind of a pair.) It's been a very long, hugely cold New Hampshire winter. And while my feet have not seen the unshod light of day for months and may not see it for several more weeks, those feet have been well ensconced and happy in their ice skates.

I like to keep my skates in my car. When I see a good pond, an opportunity to get out and do a couple of laps over the ice, I'm in a good place. And it does not have to be something I necessarily plan or orchestrate.

A few years ago I invested in some wonderful LL Bean skates — honestly, they are the orthopedic version of skates, very "Meme" skates, almost like sneakers with blades. They even have Velcro straps, and, man, are they ever comfortable. So when I stop and do a couple of twists and turns, I'm quite content with one pair of socks and these comfortable skates. And I'm grateful winter stretches out a bit more in this granite state.

Skating is a cheap thrill — well, here in New Hampshire anyway. My daughter and I recently returned from New York City, where there were several venues upon which to skate: Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park, the South Street Seaport. Alas, the cost of renting skates and ice time translated to the same amount for stellar Broadway tickets, so we did not skate in the Big Apple. And, truth be told, I prefer skating amidst trees, snow banks, bumps and lumps. And I like skating for free with no limit to my ice time. Skating beneath the sun is simply glorious.

My skating is pretty limited to going around and around. I think of it as kind of rocking — like in a chair, not at a concert. No, it's my meditation, and it's a form I've used for years and in several venues.

While living in Holland, I never did do the Hans Brinker thing of skating on the canals, but I did skate on some small ponds and even once tried those speed skates. I purchased a pair at a thrift shop thinking, "Well, I've been skating since I've been five — how hard can these be?" Well, speed skates and figure skates are two very different breeds. I simply could not stand up on those extra-long blades. I did love watching the Dutch glide and skate with such grace; they made it look so easy. Maybe someday I'll try it again.

In truth, though, I did once win a speed skating contest while living in Alaska and while wearing figure skates. It was during Anchorage's Fur Rendezvous, which is the city's winter carnival. I felt quite impressed with myself when I came in first. My husband still laughs as I have kept my ribbon out for all to see — even years later. It's one of my life's highlights.

And skating is always one of my life's highlights. May you try it before all the ice melts and those ponds are different venues indeed. Stay safe, stay down to earth and I'll see you out there with your own blades of glory!

Susan Dromey Heeter's "Down to Earth" appears the third Tuesday of each month in At Home. Her other column, "Budget Vogue," appears the first Sunday of the month in the New Hampshire Sunday News.


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