By Angela Gallagher
OUT on the lake I score the ice with my skates, the sharp scrape, scrape all I can hear in this frost-quiet landscape. This is usually my relaxation; a serene gliding, a meditative rhythm. Push on the right foot, push on the left – right…left…right…left.
If there are words in my head that want to come out they trace the history of my school lessons and escape to the rhythm of my blades. Sometimes poems I learnt: “Because-I would-not stop-for death-death kind-ly stopped-for me.” Or mnemonics from my history lessons: “Divorced-beheaded-died (long glide) Divorced-beheaded-survived.”
But most times there is nothing but me and the ice. I am grateful it accepts me because I feel like an interloper into the landscape. It is my escape and so it feels like a friend.
Icy winter mornings have a stillness to them which is other-worldly. It removes you from the everyday and sets you apart. When I can shift completely into this state I chase my breath, bite into the crisp air and think of nothing.
I like to experience the cold – take it inside me. It is all encompassing so that I can feel and taste it. And hear it too: the slicing, like the sharpening of a sword; the cracking, like a breaking open. There’s music in the ice too. No-one can hear it but it’s there, trapped in the crystals. I am desperate to hear it.
My mother vainly shouts after me to wrap up warm but what’s the point of that? I want this iciness to penetrate right to my core so that I feel… something.
I never knew what cold was before. Not really. Down here I feel so very cold.
Through my boots and their sharp steel on which I balance, I am connected to this amazing feat of nature. It holds me; lets me carve out the curling signature of my progress across this sheet of blue-white perfection, this proof of my existence on this one day. But as spring nudges uncertainly in, it will be gone, the evidence dismissed
I feel as fleeting, as delicate.
A calmness usually comes upon me out here but today I’m not calm; I’m cutting my anger into the ice. I have a furiousness I want to throw at the world. I’ve been angry in the past but I’ve never brought it here before. Never to this: the inner me turned inside out and made a physical thing. My anger pushes me away from the edge, further out into the middle of the lake. My blades detect a change in the texture. Softness, slush. Almost imperceptible at first until I test it by pushing on further to the centre; dare it, challenge it.
Some might say I’ve been flirting with this for a long time. Inviting it.
I hear the ice differently now too. The odd crackle; a noise converted to a fissure as it runs after the edge of the blade. It feels different: untrustworthy. I realise I’m asking things of it. I’m asking, “How much do you love me? How much are you prepared to do for me? Can you hold me?” I feel it making up its mind but I have no patience; I’m pushing, pushing all the time.
Eventually it gives me its answer, all in a rush; a shock of splintered ice and cold water closing in above me.
At least down here beneath the ice I can hear the music.
© Angela Gallagher 2016