Skating Lessons

maple leaf in the snow
Of course, if I was going to be hacked–inconveniencing me and my twenty-odd readers–it would be during the Copenhagen summit. Fortunately I know all of you were well-supplied with climate news from other quarters and that the only real consequence was that you were spared my nail-biting highs and lows as I oscillated between hope that maybe something of note would come out of it after all and despair that I was witnessing the beginning of the end of the world. Not to mention the shame of watching our nation’s leader drag Canada’s reputation through black crude; now I can worry about revealing my Canadianness when next I travel abroad.

Maybe I’ll just stay home.

I’ll claim it’s climate-friendly.

Anyway. The thing is, in Toronto in January, it’s easy to forget we even have a non-built environment. We scurry from heated home to heated car or heated subway to heated mall or heated office, spending agonizing minutes at a time exposed to the wind and twisting our ankles in the slush at the side of the roads. And yes, I know that Toronto is relatively blessed climate-wise for Canada and we could live in St. John or Saskatoon and know what a real Canadian winter is like. Stuff it. All I am saying is that Torontonians generally spend the time periods bracketed by Christmas and the spring thaw pretending that there is no such thing as a non-built environment.

This is not surprising. The Canadian winter can, and until the 20th century regularly did, kill people. It was not all that unusual for poorer Canadians to run out of wood for their stoves sometime in February (and in echoes of today’s political debates, albeit with less potential for disaster, be scolded by the rich and the political conservatives for being poor in the first place and in the second daring to spend a single cent of their meagre resources on anything not strictly related to survival, thus deserving to die by freezing).

I digress. The point is: it’s Toronto, it’s winter, it’s cold, the closest most of us come to the natural environment is the greenery at the local mall, and half the time it’s fake.

Not that being outside with all that non-human nature stuff loses its positive effects. I’m sure it would still make me a kinder, more altruistic, happier, healthier person with higher levels of vitamin D. It’s just uncomfortable. Really, in Toronto in the wintertime, you have two options: 1) Coccoon. Never be farther than 20 feet from a heating vent of some kind. Drink lots of tea or coffee. Plot the shortest possible point between any two external doors. The non-built environment is out to get you; avoid it all costs. 2) Learn to enjoy the cold.

My daughter, sweet innocent poppet that she is, does not yet have to learn to enjoy the cold (though she does shiver along with me while we walk to her school in the morning, pitiably lamenting, “I wish it was spring!”). She wants to build snowmen and make snow angels and examine the prints different kinds of animals make in the snow; she wants to get a toboggan and ride it downhill. She wants to skate.

She doesn’t know how to skate. I don’t know how to skate. I’ve lived in Canada for 34 years; I’ve been dragged to oodles of yearly skating field trips during my public school career. Each time I would wobble fearfully around the ice–did I mention I was terrified of ice when I was in grade school? That I would often walk around a frozen puddle rather than risk slipping on it?–find some sort of a hobbledy gait, decide I liked it ok, put the skates away and only bring them out during the next year’s field trip. It was warmer inside and I had books to read. But Frances wants to learn how to skate, which means I need to learn how to skate, which means dear god help me she’d better like it or she’ll have hell to pay.

(Metaphorically speaking. No pressure.)

This means that tomorrow the boyfriend is teaching me to skate. Or, at least, he’s going to try. He was born in Korea and he plays hockey every week. I was born in Toronto and I still shuffle my way across a frozen puddle. I love Canada. Anyway: he is going to teach me how to skate, and if you think I sound nervous about this you’d be right, and his threat to bring a camera and provide the world or at least a few close friends with photographic evidence (or blackmail material, I’m not sure which) is only partially contributing.

Still. I am determined to learn how to enjoy, or at least tolerate, the Canadian winter, for as long as we still have one, rather than spend January and February pining for April and trout lilies (though there will be that too). Then I might have more to tell you about between now and our annual flooded-creek warnings. That I may be providing Frances with an athletic skill that will be all but useless in the February of Toronto 2030 when we no longer have ice in winter, I refuse to contemplate.

Sorry again about Copenhagen, world.

(By the way: I have short pieces in Corporate Knights and Spacing right now about solar energy in California and the 20th anniversary of the Task Force to Bring Back the Don respectively, and an essay recently published in a parenting anthology. You’ve missed my publication updates, haven’t you? No?)

2 thoughts on “Skating Lessons”

  1. And hands forward, as if you are carrying a tray. Do you have an outdoor rink nearby? So lovely on a mild winter afternoon.

    Always happy for publication updates, too.

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