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A December Afternoon in Yosemite National Park, California

The waterfalls are back!

The waterfalls are back!

Recent heavy rains mean the road to Yosemite is littered with small rockslides and orange autumn leaves.  After months and months of drought, seeing the Merced River flowing strongly, its green algae now washed away, is a happy sight.  Water is life.

We’re headed to the valley to go ice skating.  I am excited to see Yosemite in December.

During the drive to the valley I tell Bear that I used to be a professional ice skater.  I don’t know why this lie escaped my lips.  He laughed at me but I insisted.  The more he disbelieved me the more I insisted that indeed I had been a professional ice skater.  Problem here is: I have never been a professional ice skater.  Or even a good ice skater.  And not only that but the truth would be discovered in less than an hour.

There are few visitors in Yosemite, providing genuine tranquility in a park so popular that it often feels like a small city.  But now, in December, all is quiet.  Snow is captured on the thousands of granite ledges soaring high above the valley floor.  Reflections are clear in the pure waters flowing serpentine through the valley.

We have a date at the ice rink with Bear’s daughter, Irene, and her boyfriend Kevin.  Both work in the backcountry of Yosemite and live and breathe the land like Bear does.  Both great people.

The rink sits in Curry Village with Half Dome in the background and towering cliffs above.  It couldn’t be more idyllic.  Well, actually it could.  If, let’s say, I was a professional ice skater and was about to prove my integrity to my doubting boyfriend.

Putting on skates for the first time in years, I recall the ankle blisters and foot pain associated with the activity.  Oh yeah.

Onto the ice now,  I drape my body over the railing and my legs splay in opposite directions.  Children point and laugh.  In my mind.  This feels all new.  I have the opposite of muscle memory.  I have muscle amnesia.

“Some professional” Bear says, laughing.  I would like to quickly flee in shame, but unfortunately I am on skates and I am moving like a disabled turtle.  I must accept my shame and laugh too.  The truth is out.

As the sun sets, a golden glow blankets the peaks, and the ice beneath my awkwardly-sliding feet glows blue.

Thumbs down.

Thumbs down.  In my day we fell constantly and we LIKED it!

I notice something new on the ice-skating scene: red “walkers” which many utilize to “skate” and avoid falling.  Now call me old-fashioned, but in my day, we learned how to skate by falling.  And we liked it.  There were no special snowflake contraptions to enable you to skate when you couldn’t.  These kids have it too easy!  Not only do they not have to walk ten miles barefoot in the snow to school, but they have special assistive devices to fake-skate!  Hmmmph.

Why am I judging?  I have no idea.

Two trips around the rink and my veal-like calf muscles are shaking with exhaustion.  Break time!  I sit with Bear by the fire while the Zamboni clears the ice.  It is here that I develop the eye of the tiger.

Ice clear, I hit the surface like a natural.  A natural with no athletic proficiency, but a natural nonetheless.  This time, I’m more relaxed (read: my muscles have given out) and I glide.  Oh yes.  This is it.  Eye of the tiger activated.

Ice skating contains a metaphor: Relax.  And don’t resist falling.  And it is easier.  Just go with the flow.  Just glide.  Such is life.

The melancholy and beautiful song “Blackbird” plays over the loudspeakers.  Now, I’m moving fast and it’s easy.  I’m in the groove.  This groove lasts 4.1 seconds but I like it.  This is the moment I will remember next time someone asks “Do you like ice skating?”  And I exclaim “Yes!”.

Back at the campfire, I remove my skates.  My feet sink into my shoes and enter a plush pillowy nirvana.  Somehow during my skate, marshmallows have replaced the insoles and each step is an anti-gravity dance on air.  I think I shall wear skates more often, just to enjoy this podiatric afterglow.

Or not.

A simple day, doing simple things, with people I love in a beautiful place.  What more could I want?  Not a thing.  

Photos of Yosemite in December:

2 Comments

  1. Fantastic you got something; great story and great pictures. Love it

    • Thanks for reading and commenting Frank!

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