Sacred Joy

On the second-to-last night of 2011, I unexpectedly got the best gift of the year – two free tickets to see Stars on Ice, my favorite show in the world, in Lake Placid, my favorite village in the world. My mother-in-law, already planning on visiting for the holiday, came out a day early so she could baby-sit the littles; the friend who gave us the free tickets had two others she gave to my mother and sister, so Carl and I met Mom and Lis in the village, had dinner together (served by the Slavic version of Basil Fawlty, though he was more harried than rude, but still – Carl was the first to come up with the comparison and it was so apt), and then went to the SHOW.
It was to flip over.
(I know, groan, but come on, you don’t expect me to get a picture of Ryan Bradley mid-back-flip and not come up with an excuse to use it and make a lame pun with.)

Our seats were in the bleachers, but when they did the retakes for tv after the show we were able to sneak down and take the seats of four people who had left. I pulled my camera out of my bag and just started clicking. Kurt Browning was gracious enough to do the majority of his retakes right in front of where we were sitting. My sister and I might have fan-girl squee-ed just a little.

It was a two+ hour drive back to Albany after the show – the weather was hovering between rain and ice through most of the Adirondacks, which meant we had to drive slowly. So what do two people do to keep each other awake on a late-night long drive back home? Well, my sister and I might have done more squee-ing over the likes of Kurt, Ryan, Todd Eldredge, etc, but since it was Carl and I, of course we started talking philosophy.
Philosophy of figure skating? Why, of course! 

Way back in college, I wrote a paper on the debate as to whether figure skating was sport or art. My stupid, stupid English professor gave me a C, not because it was poorly written, but because he didn’t think it was a real issue (note: at the beginning of the semester he told us anything was acceptable as a topic, and cited one of his favorite papers from the previous year, on “Why Blondes Have More Fun). I looked at him and said, “I am a figure skater: trust me, it is an issue.”

He refused to believe me; that is the one and only C I have ever received on any assignment in an English class. And yes, it was close to ten years ago, but IT STILL RANKLES.

Anyway. Carl was asking me about my thoughts on it, and being wiser now, I wasn’t so quick to jump to the defense of figure skating as sport. I told him that I couldn’t really be objective on the matter, because figure skating was so much more to me than anything I could describe.

You see, when I am on the ice, just as when I am writing, I feel I am coming closer to the me I am meant to be (I know this all sounds a little “woo-woo.” Sorry about that), back to the core of who I am, the Louise God intended me to be with all the baggage stripped away. Only skating and writing do that for me – nothing else. It is too close to my heart; I cannot speak objectively about it. Even when I am not skating myself, watching pure, good skating gives me an echo of that. It satisfies me in a way nothing else does, the same way that reading a brilliantly-written book satisfies me even when I am not writing myself.

And I am not a great skater, but when I am on the ice I feel like I am great. I am always pretty sure I look like this:

Joannie Rochette and Sasha Cohen)

Or this:
I want to be Katia Gordeeva when I grow up

And I really look like this:
True story – I got done with this spiral and told my friend who was holding the camera “That was great! My leg was really up there, my head was high, it was an awesome spiral!” She said, “uh-huh,” and handed me the camera. I was shocked to see I had only achieved a straight line – but I suppose I should be thankful at least my head was up and my leg was straight. I don’t always even accomplish that.

Or this:
SELL that final pose, girl!

But that doesn’t matter. Not really. I do my best skating when I am all alone in a rink, with no one around to make me self-conscious. It’s not a solitary act for most, but like writing, it is for me.
And that – because it is almost sacred to me – is why it brings me such joy to watch it done well. Oh sure, the eye candy is nice, too, but skating is unique and special and wondrous simply because, for me, it is an act of worship.
As is writing.
It’s kind of a nice way to end the year, isn’t it, making those connections and getting an unexpected chance to experience that again?
It makes me want to write more, too, and to remember more of what my writing is – not just a hobby or career, but an essential part of me, one of those elements that makes me me, and something that brings me closer to my best, my purest version of myself.
And that is the last bit of philosophizing you will hear from me until next year. 
Happy New Year’s, friends!

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7 thoughts on “Sacred Joy

  1. I can't do anything physical with anything coming close to grace, but I understand what you mean about the feeling you get from skating, and how it even makes you feel more like writing. I think that's what music is like for me. I'm starting to suspect that if I start throwing myself into making music more, I'll eventually find it easier to write, too.Kurt Browning always did seem classy. Say, do you know what Paul Wylie is doing nowadays? I had such a crush on him when he was in the Olympics.

  2. According to my mother, this idea of finding happiness in fulfilling your design is a very Platonic philosophy. Who knew? (Well, probably most philosophers, but I certainly didn't.)I know what you mean about the one helping you do the other better – whenever I am done watching beautiful skating, I immediately want to go write. And exercise, so I can be in as good shape as the skaters are, but that's beside the point.Last I heard about Paul Wylie, he had finished Harvard Business School and was doing coaching-type stuff, married with a few kids. I got to see him skate live a few times before he retired – talk about doing well what you were created to do!

  3. Kirsten – Thanks; I am pretty sure I could not pull off a spiral like that today – those pictures were taken pre-kids, and I have not been on the ice for anything but helping my girls skate since. It IS pretty amazing to find two things that bring such deep satisfaction – Plato was certain each person only had one.

  4. I wish I could find my thing that made me feel the way figure skating makes you feel. After racking my brain for five minutes, I think it might be eating. But I don't want it to be that! :-P

  5. I wish I could have been a great ice skater. I think that's why I love watching those Olympic competitions and everything. The athleticism and art, it's so fun.You look like you're having fun on the ice!

  6. Cath – according to Plato (via my mother), to find what it is you were created to do, and then do it well, is the ultimate definition of happiness. So it makes sense that would take a long time to figure it out! You'll get there in the end, I know.Lydia – I'll never be great, but yes, I do have a lot of fun on the ice. No matter what I'm doing out there, even falling, I usually have a big dumb grin on my face!

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