71. A River to Skate Away On

Dear Tera,

Today the sun is bright on newly-fallen snow.  Alpha’s knee has recovered from last summer’s surgery.  At least, he feels confident enough to put on the cross-country skis.  And we’re off through Windsor Park and past the hockey rink and down the embankment and on to the river. 

This truly is a marvelous season for dogs.  And Lily with her youth and exuberance makes the most of it.  I too used to bound through the deep snow, leaping up to catch a better view over the drifts. 

These days, I’m content to let Alpha break the trail, and I follow in the tracks of his skis.  Or even better still, I pad along the packed path that follows the river bank, and let those two brave the powder and punder that covers the river after a big blizzard.

Only when it becomes clear that Alpha and Lily have definitely traversed to the far bank do I leave the comfort of the well-beaten trail, and follow them.  My, but I do love the taste of the powder snow you get in the middle of the river – so pristine and crystalline that it melts on your tongue like a drink from a cool brook.

On the far bank, there are all kinds of new smells to explore.  The embankment is thick with the trees and brush that our humans work so hard to eradicate.  Here and there, you find tracks of wild animals – rabbits and foxes.  And for a moment, we all imagine ourselves as feral beasts out braving the wilderness.  We ignore the hum of the nearby traffic of course.

Lily would like to be everywhere at once.  One moment she’s steeplechasing over the snowdrifts.  The next, she wants to bound across the ice to wear the ducks are sitting so complacent in the open water.  Alpha orders Lily to stay close.  She can be very foolish at times, and we don’t want her anywhere near the thin ice.

Then, several hundred yards down from the park, we come across a very strange thing indeed.  Someone has cleared the snow in the middle of the river, and has turned it into a rink.  Not just any rink, but a maze of trails of clear ice. 

You can see the bubbles in the ice that show it to be at least a foot thick.  The larger bubbles lie in striations.  You can tell where, a few weeks back, the weather must have warmed up enough for large bubbles to leave cloud formations half way down the ice. 

Where the ice has cracked from the pressure, the cracks fall like a curtain until they reach the cold green water far below.  It’s as if you are god looking down on the northern lights, their shimmering now frozen in time.

The surface is smooth – much more smooth than the surface of the Windsor rink where Alpha and his friends gather late at night to flood with a long hose.  There are scarcely any skate marks cut into the ice – and certainly not the kind of gouges and scrapes you get when they play hockey on Windsor rink. 

Instead, the tracks of the skates are delicate and small.  A child has skated here – a very young child learning to love the winter as much as we do.

The colour of the ice on the river is a deep green, like the sky and ice in the painting of the hunters in the snow.  The colour stands so sharp against the brilliant white of the snow, and you can see the shoveled trail winding downstream.  Alpha looks wistfully into the distance.  His knee is not yet ready for hockey skates, but his roving spirit has wanted to find a river he could skate away on. 

We’ll come back someday with Sporty, Sunshine and the Pup.  If the winter lasts that long.  On days like this, I wish winter would stay with us much longer.

                                                            Loving the ice and snow,