ice-out ticket

by underswansea

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The ice is off the north end of the lake. The south end is still frozen, but it won’t be long now, a day or two maybe. Ron used to say April 12th was a good pick for an ice-out ticket.

My pick was earlier. I should have known better. In recent years the ice has been out early, near the end of March, but this year, Lake Windermere froze early. And it froze hard. I was skating in the bay on November 24th. It reminded me of being young when we couldn’t wait to get out. We always skated in the bay. It was shallow and if we went through it was only into a foot or two of water.

Sometimes the lake freezes and then goes out. Those years are poor skating years. This year it was a sheet of glass, hardened during a cold snap, before a layer of snow could insulate it. When I saw the open ice a twinge of that old excitement nipped at my heals. Mostly the lake and I try to ignore each other.

The laces on my skates seem further down now. I watch for cracks, like I never did before, leery to dip a blade and go for a spill.

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The photos were taken only 400 yards apart but 28 years difference. A lot has changed in that time. In one of these photos I was invincible. In the other, I have a few aches and pains. Whenever my leg starts to ache or my back gets sore I wonder if this is my new reality. Sometimes the aches don’t go away, so you have to learn to live with it.

The lake is much different now. It is ringed with vacation homes. The local politicians and business folks are busy trying to think up new ways to charge admission to its shores or frozen surface. The native fish are gone, replaced with introduced species bred to live in waters churned and muddy in the wake of motorboats.

The old home on the hillside is gone. Mom used to call us home off the ice at supper. Her voice only carried like that in winter.

After they died, a developer bought the house with plans to put up condos. They sat on it. The place we grew up in became a crack house. They chopped the cedar mantel Ron and I found up Albert River and set it ablaze in the fireplace. The walls were smeared with blood and shit. The window my mom leaned out when she called us off the lake was smashed. I considered shooing the derelicts, and burning it to the ground.

My back has become sore. My brother says growing up was tough. He was right, I can’t argue anymore.

The lake is flat now. It will be a week or two before the tourists arrive with their motorboats. It still calls me, but it isn’t the same as it was 28 years earlier. I figure we both have wounds that have become our new reality.

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