Skating the issue

Penne on ice that looks as fluid as water

Penne on ice that looks as fluid as water

As we glided across the gray ice on Megunticook Lake and then stopped to bask in the setting sun’s purple, pinkish glow, John looked at me and said “skating is really your favorite thing isn’t it?”

He might be right. As we stood by ourselves in the middle of a huge expanse of winter water, the slowly disappearing sun was going out in style, shooting rays of color into the clouds, the sky, and the mountains. All of it was reflected in the ice, which became brighter than even the setting sun. The darker the sky became the more the ice looked liquid, just with its ripples and wind-blow waves frozen in time.

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Swimming through the water in the summer takes effort — the joy it gives comes from the soft feel of the water on my limbs. Skating over frozen water, on the other hand, is about the speed. It’s like that surging rush in a sailboat when the wind suddenly catches the sails and pushes the boat forward. Except on the ice, I get that feeling of speed with no boat or sails. Just me and my long blades.

I can go so much farther with so little effort.

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On Saturday, knowing that a blizzard was on the way, John and I and the dogs went out for a morning skate. I headed out ahead of John across the smooth surface, left blade carving a long line, then the right blade, then the left, right, left, in a gentle rhythm marked by quick scraping sounds.

We met a lone woman skating back to the shore. “Great out here, isn’t it,” she said.

Further along, we saw a bald eagle perched in a tree watching us, especially Roger. The eagles hang around ice fishermen looking for handouts. This one was contemplating whether Roger might taste better than a dead fish.

An eagle assessing Roger's potential as dinner

An eagle assessing Roger’s potential as dinner

Roger says catch me if you can

Roger says catch me if you can

Ice brings out interesting characters. Last year we met a man riding a bicycle with studded tires on the slippery ice. Sometimes I have run into a guy who golfs — I have found his lost balls stuck into the ice. There also are ice-boaters and ice-fishermen. Most of them use untended tip-ups with flags that alert them when the bait has been taken. Saturday, though, we saw an elderly fisherman who was jigging for white perch. He sat on a small overturned bucket next to a gas heater and was using a small rod to catch the fish and pull them out. Perch travel in schools, he said, and when you catch one, you can be sure you will catch another right away. More than a dozen silvery green perch lay next to him on the ice, one or two still slowly flopping.

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9fishHe told us he had seen a man jogging on the ice earlier with a dog.

“I think he was lost,” the fisherman said. “He asked me which way to go to get to Moody Mountain.”

We were not lost. We went all the way down the lake to the other end, where we removed our skates and hiked over a short spit of land and onto another smaller body of water, Norton Pond. We skated to the end of that, and just as the snow started to fall quite heavily, we headed home.

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