jo skates

Thoughts about skating and the practice of everyday life


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Bone skates, anyone?

A poem by Jane McKie, “Viking Horse-bone Ice Skates“:
The horse won’t know how its metatarsal
can be whittled by friction with the lake,
how the act of skating is part halting
glide, part planer blade; or how thick ice melts
back to health, its grooves, its scuffed ‘v’s, softening
to fill their own wounds. And the horse won’t know 
how the skating boy, who opens his mouth
as he flies, will lose three blunt teeth, two milk,
one new; how these teeth, also, will be found.

From Kitsune (Blaenau Ffestiniog:  Cinnamon Press, 2015)

bone-ice-skates-Viking

This photo is of a pair of bone skates that were discovered in Dublin 11th/12th century AD. There is also an interesting webpage out there about Viking-age ice skates, complete with photos of the brave author who tried to reconstruct and actually skate on a pair of these.

Thankfully my skates, however old, are not made of bone and there is no loss of teeth to report here! I have had enough challenges on my relatively high-tech Reidell-MK combo.

Since I don’t have equipment issues to contend with, I have to up the ante a bit. I been trying to make myself work more on things that are out of my current comfort zone. This week, this has mainly entailed skating with my arms in different positions. Laurie has me doing progressives with my arms in fifth position: up over my head, and with my thumbs touching. This makes me much more aware of how used I am to leaning slightly forward and have my shoulders raised. Similarly, I have been doing back outside edge push backs with arms in first position, thumbs touching; again, this makes me realize how much my shoulder and torso have been distorted.

Since my edges are getting stronger, I have also been trying to work on getting better positions in and out of turns. I tend to flatten out edges just before I turn (don’t know why, since it makes the turn much harder).

Still hard at work, but at least my blades are nice and sharp (got them done last week) and made of metal, not bone!

Lesson notes:

  • progressives with arms raised in fifth. Head lifted too. No bobbing!
  • push back with arms in first. Watch that you are not setting down your left foot too far forward.
  • inside edges and forward inside threes. Be really clear about the edge and starting arm positions. Control rotation.
  • mohawk push back, back outside three. No delay on second edge of mohawk.
  • alternating back crossover, change edge. On back inside edge, turn in free leg (top of thigh turns in). Knee action to gain speed on the change of edge.
  • back to front choctaw, counter. Don’t change over and do a three turn instead of a counter.
  • swing roll with edge pull, change edge to quick mohawk step forward. Keep lean into circle, especially on right side.
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Poem for today

A poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, “Making a Fist”

We forget that we are all dead men conversing with dead men.
—Jorge Luis Borges

For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,
I felt the life sliding out of me,
a drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.
I was seven, I lay in the car
watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern past the glass.
My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.

‘How do you know if you are going to die?’
I begged my mother.
We had been traveling for days.
With strange confidence she answered,
‘When you can no longer make a fist.’

Years later I smile to think of that journey,
the borders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unanswerable woes.
I who did not die, who am still living,
still lying in the backseat behind all my questions,
clenching and opening one small hand.

From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye. Published by Far Corner. Copyright © 1995 Naomi Shihab Nye.

Source: Grape Leaves: A Century of Arab American Poetry (University of Utah Press, 1988)


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Celebrating the ice

The temperature is now above 40 degrees, and everything is melting! In honor of the arrival of warmer weather (here in Minnesota we don’t say “spring” until May), I want to share a couple of poems and a few photos about ice.

First is a haiku I wrote for a competition run by my son’s Japanese class (they encouraged parents to enter):

Skaters trace out eights,
Quiet as frozen water.
Snow dusts our circles.

And now a humorous one by a friend (who wrote it in response to another poem about winter):

“About Those Icicles”

by Laura Gurak

When I read your poem
about icicles from roof to ground,
I thought “Hey, you need a roof rake.”
Those icicles are dangerous!
They will pull your rain gutters down!
Shiny and bright on the surface,
but underneath the glow
beware!!
they are letting frosty cold water,
melted by mid-day sun,
creep underneath
and up behind your roof shingles.
Next thing you know, it’s raining in the kitchen!
Or in the bathroom!
It takes a hearty soul indeed to endure
the endless northern winters.
Whether New England or the Midwest, someone is bound
to have the worst one that year.
Snow, even when too much, gives us trails and animal tracks
to follow, often with the dog, nose to ground.
But icicles—they are not our friends.
Get a roof rake and make them vanish, and soon!
Then, we can welcome the March weather,
return of the sun, all melting all around us,
outside.

But to prove that we do love our winters (at least for a while), here are some pictures from earlier this year: an annual cross-country ski race that always involves decorating a frozen lake with ice sculptures and lights. Enjoy!