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Let’s go skating!

Filed in: Get Inspired

The Skating Minister, Henry Raeburn, 1795. The Scottish National Gallery.

Years ago, a friend of mine found this print of The Skating Minister in a thrift store. I was green with envy. I almost challenged her to a snowball fight for it. However, common sense prevailed and I secretly grumbled to myself. All is fair in love, war and thrifting.

So why do I love this painting so much? It’s not that I am a talented skater like the Reverend Robert Walker obviously was. But I love his elegance, confident form, and the whimsical manner in which he was painted. I think it is sooooooo lovely. And, of course, it reminds me of my childhood on the prairies and the secret skating rink.

Children love winter and I was no exception. We weren’t afraid of the snow, cold and ice. Winter meant: massive snow forts made from thick blocks karate chopped from hard-packed drifts. Two-feet high tunnels connected to little rooms. Snowball fights and sledding. Snowmobile rides and bonfires with hotdogs, marshmallows and hot chocolate. But for me, the best part of winter was when the old slough (pronounced slew) on my uncle’s property froze solid. It was close to our little village and all the town kids would head there to skate. It was hidden from the road and we felt it was our secret skating rink.

On most week-ends, we’d grab our skates and walk for fifteen minutes to get to the slough. It was surrounded by aspen trees and we slid down an embankment to get to the ice. The older boys would shovel the snow off and it became a large frozen circle of wonder. The first step onto the ice was always so exciting! We shared the improvised skating rink; hockey players on one side and twirlers on the other. We’d play Crack the Whip with the strongest boy at the front with ten kids holding hands behind him. It wasn’t the smooth ice you’ve seen on Stars On Ice. It was bumpy in many spots and often tree branches were frozen and exposed. If you weren’t careful, you’d skate over one and sail through the air and land sprawled like a dropped puppet. Country skating wasn’t for sissies.

Eventually the trees threw long shadows and the snow no longer sparkled around us. The light changed to a thin shade of dusk and we knew it was time to go home. My sister and I couldn’t feel our fingers as we unlaced our skates and shoved our feet into frozen boots. We’d walk home and Dad would say, “Look at those nice red cheeks!” and Mom made us hot chocolate and a snack.

Your fingers, toes and face tingled and burned as they warmed up and yet somehow, even though you had just walked in the door, you couldn’t stop thinking of the next time you’d skate at the secret slough. Years later, those feelings are still with me, frozen in time, like the tree branches in the ice.

Now It’s Your Turn

What are your skating memories? Did you love it? Hate it because you had weak ankles? Or did you live in a place so warm that skating wasn’t an option? (I feel bad for you!)

Lead the way and play Crack the Whip with your memories.

As for me? I just ordered the print of The Skating Minister. I’ve waited long enough! It’s time for him to grace my living room wall during the long winter months. And I think a new pair of skates are on the horizon too.

*Would you love to write? Then check out Scribbly – my gentle and whimsical writing program that we snail-mail right to your house. Scribbly writers from three countries have fallen in love with writing!

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  1. Marsha Gulick says:

    I saw this painting in Edinburgh. It is enormous! You turn a corner and there he is; Almost life size! It took my breath away.

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