A Night on the Ice

“The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound!”

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

~Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Ice on South Pond, Kelly Salasin, 2012

She stepped onto the ice just as the sun dipped behind the mountain.  It was a cold night, and for that she was grateful. The lake was certain to be solid. She skated her way into the vast expanse of frozen water, and waited expectantly for the moon to rise, but it hid behind the mountain and then was covered by clouds.

In the South, Venus beckoned high in the sky, and drew her closer, toward what little light remained in the day as the puck was passed from person to person.

She didn’t play. It was enough to be on the water–instead of in it. Up until this moment, falling through the ice had been her worst fear. The truth was that it still terrified her; only now, she was equally enamored by daring to stand upon it.

Tonight’s skate held none of the distractions of her first time–just the week before–when the light was golden and the ice was covered with fresh snow–kindly hiding the cracks and ridges, not to mention those small, circular, dark… holes?

(Were they holes? Had there been several fisherman? Dozens? Her young son made this claim each time they came upon one; but she knew it couldn’t be so. Hardly a soul had been out on the lake this year. Yesterday it had been in the forties.)

On that afternoon a week ago, her blades etched designs in the fresh snow and delighted her with each stroke and curl. First she skated out her name, and then those of others–the children, and the other mother–the one who skated in her skirt and woolens, way out into No Man’s Land, past the beach where they summered, and all the way toward the reeds where the kayakers would paddle.

She continued writing, carefully crafting a “C”, and kept her eye on Carol; and on each of the children, holding them not only in her view, but in the protection of her expanded awareness.

This night was too dark to do the same, and so she endeavored to remain near them, in the middle of their game and around it; not only to keep them safe, but to feel safer herself.  Often one or two of them would make proximity impossible–disappearing in the dark, toward the landing, a quarter mile away.

A half-hour later, she made the journey there herself, to share some dinner in the company of her son, but once he was handed a hockey stick, he darted back into the dark night, leaving her… alone.

She rushed to pack up her basket and slip on her mittens, but just as she began to skate into the night toward them, she heard it.  A rumbling so loud it shook the sky and echoed on every bank, and in every curve and crevice–west and east and north and south–until they all came racing toward her–just as moon lit up the ice.

“We felt that,” the other mother cried.

“The ice cracked in a circle around me,” her son added.

She smiled and laughed with relief, turning with them toward the landing, and then paused–lingering a moment with the moon.

She was relieved to have missed it–the feeling of it underneath her, the uncertainty, the great vastness of something bigger than herself; but she was equally riveted by being so close to something so consuming.

Nights later, it stirs her still. She does research about ice and discovers that frozen water moans and groans like this with each shift in temperature.

She thinks back to the growing pains of this past year–to the wondrous openings that both thrilled and terrified her–and she understands… this is how it feels to expand.

~Kelly Salasin, January 2012

for more winter & seasonal writing, click here

for more on the life purpose path, click here

“...In that hazarding, you take a step onto surfaces that
you’re not sure will hold your weight…
keeping the depth of your attention on what calls you
this is the kind of courage it takes to claim
your happiness in life.”

(Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity, David Whyte)

Dis-Orient Me

Klimt, visipix.com

As I climb the third flight of stairs on the switchback staircase that leads to my therapist’s office on the 4th floor, an insight pops into my head:

I need to disorient myself

Disorient?  That’s an unusual word to apply to self, but I know what I mean.  I’ve gotten so entrenched in my blogging world that there’s no room for anything new to emerge.

I intended to spend the bulk of my therapy session on the topic of my work, but alas my family (of origin) took precedence–again.  Even though the hour is just about up when I toss out the words “disorient” and “writing,” Carolyn visibly quickens.

“Disorient? Are you sure that’s what you mean?” she asks, leaning forward from her reclining chair across from mine.

It’s a curiosity to me, but this therapist is riveted by the writing process. She’s been a great supporter of my work over the years, even when I haven’t.  When I look back, I can see that my writing really took off when I began working with her.

“What I mean is that I want to disorient myself from what I’ve been doing, but I don’t know what else I want to do,” I explained, as I turned to look out her window–to the great expanse of the Connecticut River and the sky and the mighty Mount Wantastiquet whose fall colors had just begun to show.

“Kelly…” Carolyn began, with deep emphasis.

I love when she says my name this because it means my work is over, at least for a bit, and she’s going to tell me something–something she’s synthesized over the years that she sees in me.   (Only, I never know if it will be a uplifting or troubling.)

“This restlessness you’re feeling, it’s what comes when you’re ready to birth something new. You can’t see what’s coming, but you know you have to let go of what you’re doing in order to make room for it,” she explains.

I visibly soften and brighten at the thought of my work having a “process.”

Like a hand on the kaleidoscope of my life, Carolyn shifts my perspective, ever so slightly, transforming a jumbled view into something with meaning–and beauty.

I soak that it before I get up to leave.

That was three weeks ago, and I couldn’t wait for the follow up.  On a Tuesday morning at 10:15, the phone rang, and I heard Carolyn’s voice on the answering machine.

I’ve missed my appointment.

I stumble to the phone and offer a confused apology.  How could I have forgotten about my appointment?

But I am in the throws of a terrible cold and I have lost touch with the world of calenders and responsibilities.

“I know that cold,” Carolyn says, “It’s disorienting.”

“That’s exactly it,” I say, relieved to be understood so completely.

I return to bed with feelings of embarrassment and guilt along with fever and incessant coughing.  I haven’t had caffeine or chocolate or alcohol in a week, nor have I written a word.  When I do finally begin to write again, it’s at the pond, on paper, like in the days before laptops and blogging.

The sun’s warmth feels strange on my feverish skin, and so I remove my clothes and dive into the pond, welcoming the cold September waters.

Afterward, I wrap myself in my towel, and remain unclothed, even when others arrive too.

The sky is unusually hazy, more like a July day, but the heat inside me is greater than the sun’s, leaving me restless.  Even though the water is choppy, I head out in my kayak, appreciating the strong wake beneath my boat.

Though I prefer to paddle on a still pond where I can easily direct my course; today, I lay my paddle down and let my hands trail through the water while the wind takes me where it will.

Only then does it occur to me–I’ve gotten exactly what I want.

Kelly Salasin, late September 2010