So as it seems to happen with my always beloved but oft beset Olympics, I had real concerns going into watching the recent Winter Games – political and pandemical ones this time. Almost before the Olympic Flame went out at their close, I was proved right on the political front (my heart goes out to the people of Ukraine…). But for a brief time there, I did end up breathing and enjoying wonderful displays of athletics and artistry – a reminder of the great things people can achieve! And some of my very favorite moments occurred on a substance of which I’m quite fond –
They took place on ice!
Nathan Chen’s figure skating performances were so inspiring! Erin Jackson’s fantastic speed skate and teary medal ceremony warmed my heart! And, after my US men’s hockey team got edged out by the Slovaks, I was pleased to see Finland – the country of 50% of my ancestry – capture its first ever Olympic hockey Gold!
I may be biased, but I think it’s a fact that much of the grandest ice in the world has two blue lines across it and a face-off dot in the center! That aside (well, mostly aside), I’ve been lucky to encounter other enchanting kinds of ice in my travels – everything from giant, ages-old fields of glacial ice, down to little, whisky-friendly cubes that seemed magically to appear in the bucket in my cruise ship stateroom!
I’ve always been kinda fascinated by ice! Maybe because I grew up on the moderate California coast where it didn’t get ”ice cold” all that often – so I’ve never really had the chance to get used to it or function in it. Most of the ice I saw around my Bay Area home was what was spat out by the machine in our freezer (which, by the way, clattered so loudly on hitting the plastic bin beneath that it could wake a person up at night if the machine had been left on…). For picnic coolers, there were bags with block or crushed ice to be had at the grocery store (I know, not thrilling – it’s just I’m trying to be thorough here!).
But! Every so often during the months that passed for wintertime, I’d discover frozen puddles on my way to school! As s kid, I could never keep from pausing to inspect these anomalies, from tapping on them lightly with a toe, and then stomping them into little melty shards –
In the name of scientific curiosity.
To check out this natural occurrence on any grander scale, one had to head out of town. I do remember a family trip (to Oregon, I think) where we took time one chilly night to explore a frozen lake! My big brothers and I took a measure of the amount of ice formed over the water by lobbing rocks across its surface. Each rock made a cavern-y kind of sound as it skittered into the darkness, until one of sufficient size broke through with a distant ”kerploosh” – not as loud as our refrigerator ice machine but a lot more pleasing!
Looking back, this behavior was a bit childish and unnecessarily destructive. But in my defense, I was – you know – a child at the time. In any event, as the years went by, ice would end up taking its revenge. As an adult, I became obsessed with ice hockey (no surprise to friends and readers) and, with everything to learn, decided to hit the ice and play the game myself! Hit the ice, I did – early and often. I’ve mentioned it all before, but I’ll reconfirm that rink ice is super-hard! And when you lose your balance and the ice rises up to meet you? I can tell you – it’s no Irish blessing.
Nevertheless, I fell deeply love with sheets of hockey ice! (As well as heavily padded hockey pants.) Especially pristine, freshly cleaned ice that seemed to call out to you to be the first to jump (or stumble) out, lean onto a now trusted skate blade edge, and etch the first curving lines onto its surface!
That love would figure into a number of my travel destination choices! A trip around Alberta, Canada had to include a pilgrimage to Edmonton where the folks and I visited Wayne Gretzky’s statue and got to spectate as some wee Canadians exercised their birthright on a rink at the West Edmonton Mall! We did also manage to fit in a stop to view (and travel out onto!) the Athabasca Glacier – one ”toe” of the massive Columbia Icefields of the Canadian Rockies!
Another time, we took a cruise that included a trip through Glacier Bay National Park where we got to sail among ancient glacial formations that completely dwarfed our vessel!
Experiences like these have left me wanting to seek out more icy adventures! I even have a sort of Ice Bucket List: I’ve been to charming Quebec City in the summertime, but I’d love to visit for their Winter Carnival; I’d also like to indulge my inner Anglophile and see what Christmastime in London looks like; and I’ll bet it’d be amazing to view the Northern Lights from an igloo in Finland (I think, technically, the igloos are glass – but I’m going to count it). Thinking of Finland and how it’s home to World and Olympic ice hockey champs (nope, not letting it go yet!) puts me in mind that I’d also like to watch my LA Kings play a hockey game in every NHL arena in North America!
There are plenty of other ice-related destinations out there, but I don’t want to be greedy – so it’s just the three countries and 32 hockey arenas for now.
Regrettably, none of those trips is actually on my calendar as yet. In the meantime, I cherish the recollection of how right before the pandemic began, I had the great treat of heading to Colorado to see a dear friend and watch some Kings hockey! It was an added treat to find lovely and intriguing formations of ice just about everywhere I looked!
Turns out the childish urge to go mess with the stuff hasn’t quite left me. But I managed to settle for taking pictures of these little works of natural art – and just letting them be.
Yup. Ice remains a fascinating and versatile wonder to me! It’s a substance upon which history, legend and even time can be written. And for a warm weather denizen like me – well – I find that pretty cool!