There’s little in twenty-first-century life more mind-numbing than a blogger’s excuses for not blogging, so I’m going to skip them. Suffice it to say I’ve been busy. The usual things have been especially demanding, and I’ve added a few new commitments to the weekly schedule. One of these is the return of The Sopranos after its long hiatus. Another is worrying about the playoffs, which isn’t a scheduled activity but gnaws at the edges and center of each waking minute. But the most time-consuming and preoccupying of my new pursuits, by far, is indirectly related: I’m learning to ice-skate.
Yeah, I’m finally doing it. Why now, I couldn’t tell you, but it had something to do with another birthday approaching and passing. For a few years at least, I’d talked about this, but after a few cursory web searches that didn’t turn up any nearby adult beginning skating lessons, I’d put the idea away. Well, this year my searching was more determined and I turned up lessons at a rink that’s almost within a reasonable distance of where I live and work. But not quite. So early Saturday mornings and late Monday afternoons, I take to the road and spend more time than I’m willing to admit driving to and from a northwest suburb, all in order to spend a significantly shorter amount of time on the ice. It’s utterly worth it. Fortunately, I’ve roped a friend into joining me; she’s Canadian, and appeals to her national pride proved effective. And thanks to my dad–and unlike her–I’ve got hockey skates.
I’ve got hockey skates! They’re almost three weeks old, but possessing them still makes me feel like some different, cooler person. Never let it be said of me that I don’t care about my image–I’m especially fond of carrying my skates to the car. Especially if it’s parked far away or my neighbors are around. And I’m totally making progress with the things on my feet, which is really, really thrilling.
I didn’t realize how long it has been since I set out to acquire a brand new skill–hell, in graduate school I think I unlearned a fair number of them–and at this point, anyway, the learning curve is nice and steep. Every week I learn to do something new and get demonstrably better at everything I learned previously. Progress is better than steady, and skating just keeps getting more fun as I test and stretch my limits. My class, which is full of friendly moms and only a couple of guys, is geared toward figure skating, but since I need to build a foundation of skills and get really comfortable on the skates, that’s fine. It’s Sasha Ovechkin, not Cohen, I’m thinking about out there, but right now I just want to keep learning new moves of whatever kind. I’m not picky.
I think this new adventure of mine nicely parallels Terry’s recent forays into painting. He got the bug from looking at so many paintings for so many years with wonder and delight and, in the end, a wish to experience firsthand the process of making something like that. I certainly got here from watching way too much hockey, until mere spectatorial connoisseurship was no longer satisfying. I don’t know whether his taking up painting has changed the way he looks at pictures, but already I’m watching hockey differently, my eyes more on the players’ feet than the puck sometimes (especially their backward skating, since mine hasn’t progressed beyond swizzles yet). I’ve never played an instrument or danced or pursued a visual art form in any sustained way, and in fact I’ve never followed something as it’s performed at the highest level while practicing it at the lowest level (not that I’m yet playing hockey, but in my mind I’m taking the first steps toward so doing). It’s true that at moments, the experience unsettlingly makes me long to be an eight-year-old Minnesotan boy–what wouldn’t be possible!–but for the most part, it’s illuminating and transporting. Count another recruit to the ranks of the passionate amateurs.