Monday, April 29, 2013

The Skaters Dance

Thoughts on what happens when we write .... and read. 


by Christian Gehman

Now.  Maybe … 

         Please, can you imagine? … now … that somewhere in a foreign country, not too far from here, where it is winter—out in the country there, she lives—a skater?  She is beautiful; she looks like someone you have loved, and someone you still love today, and someone you will love tomorrow.

She has those beautiful kind hazel eyes, or bright blue eyes, or the warm brown eyes you will always love.  She may have green eyes, even.  Not for jealousy.
Imagine you can see snow everywhere: a wintry landscape, Currier and Ives, perhaps a barn and cows, a farm yard with some chickens, a log cabin with a porch.  Around this peaceful snowy paradise are snow-covered fir trees: and a wisp of smoke curls up from the cabin's field stone chimney.
Just outside the kitchen window live some chickens in their chicken house, and they are happy making eggs.  In the barn live cows; the horses there are stamping, munching hay, blowing steam out their noses in the cold frosty air.
On this day, our skater gets up early, rising from her sleigh-bed in the rafters of the cabin, fluffing back her goose down comforter—she gets up early knowing she’ll go skating.  Our skater dresses all in green: green skirt, green tights, green leotard, and her form-fitting green skater’s jacket has been trimmed with pure white ermine at the collar.  Each green is slightly different. 
Downstairs in the kitchen she prepares a cup of creamy, warm hot chocolate: a dark liquid not too sweet but creamy and well-frothed with bubbles.  She drinks it sip by sip gazing into the fire.
Then, dangling her figure skates across one shoulder, our Skater sashays out the door. She walks through the wintry landscape with its dark green, snow-covered trees: she sees her breath puff in the frosty air as she walks down to the pond, a light snow crunching under her warm fleece-lined boots.
It has been a cold winter, so the old quarry pond is blessed with black ice three feet thick.  The water in one corner, as our skater knows, is deep enough to swallow you forever if the ice lets go.
She sits down at the end of the short wooden dock to lace her skates up tight.
The pond’s black ice is smooth, unmarked.
Her green skating costume trimmed with ermine; and the way she looks around so kindly, with her eyes:  these are things you will remember.  Also, how she moves:  her swoops and twirls and arabesques, her lutzes, axels, doubles, triples, triple-doubles: how she spins and bends and pirouettes.  A champion of skating, now she's practicing for her performance at the next Olympics.
Each move our skater makes cuts a distinct mark on the ice.  Her skate blades cut these marks quite clearly on the smooth black ice.  Her skates make a slight scraping, grinding, slicing noise, but she is not too much aware of that noise, while she skates.  It is part of her skating process.  Sometimes she might sing or hum or maybe even talk to herself—from pure delight and from enjoying what she’s doing: how she’s skating.

She can glide, she can soar, she can swoop; she can twirl, she can leap, she can spin and she can make your heart stop, fascinated, with the loveliness of all her movements, skating: until finally you know she loves to do the skater's dance for you.

And in her heart someone is always watching. 

      At long last, after skating to a great sufficiency, she goes back to her cabin, stopping at the barn to say hello to the big bay horses and the Guernsey cows, making sure they have plenty of water.  Back home at last, she makes another cup of that sweet dark hot chocolate whose foamy breaking bubbles glisten creamy in the cup.
Before long, while she’s still drinking chocolate, another skater comes over the hill from a neighboring farm.  He looks down at all the marks she left on the ice.  A young man, and he hopes to be a champion one day.  He sits down on the dock and pulls his skates on, lacing them up tight, then glides out on the smooth black ice. 

This second skater, puzzling out the marks that she has left, finds that by skating over them, so that his own skates run where hers ran: he finds that the figure of the skater's dance repeats itself in his own movements: all her swoops and twirls and arabesques, the lutzes, axels, doubles, triples, triple-doubles: all her swirls and bends and pirouettes are reproduced now in his movements.  And sometimes the next skater adds in his own movements or re-skates again some of her figures that he’s already skated over—just to learn them better, maybe—or because he likes to skate them?
Skating in her marks, he feels the same emotions and sometimes almost thinks to see reflections of the kindly look that he has seen so often—in her eyes.
      But of course, he makes a few mistakes, or maybe puts in—now and then—his own material, improves a little here and there on her dance; he grows bored or fascinated by the dance she did and by his own reinterpretations of that dance.  His mind moves with his body as her mind moved with her body when she skated. 

Sometimes his mind goes off completely on a wander of its own, some wild new tangent—and calls up a new, completely different series of movements, which we might call “the dream of skating”but before long it returns to what he has been doing, skating over her marks, and he becomes aware of the wander only when he "wakes" to find himself still tracing out her marks on the ice: that mad, mad whirl of marks whose meaning can be puzzled out only by someone whose ability to skate has been not just well-learned but also practiced.

      This puts him, somewhat, in the same position as you, dear reader, looking at this text and reading, falling, maybe now and then, into your own sweet dream of reading.

      Did you like skating into this fable?

      Is it time for some hot chocolate? … for the foamy breaking bubbles glistening at the cup’s edge: maybe chocolat with whipped cream on top?

At long last, after skating to his heart's content, the second skater finally takes off his skates and puts his boots back on.  He walks home past the skater's cabin, stopping in her barn to say hello to all her horses and her cows (because they’re old, old friends); then he knocks on her front door, she opens her door smiling at him just because he looks so handsome in his tight black skater’s outfit! -- and then he drinks a nice cup of the hottest creamy chocolate with her, looking up to her kindly hazel green eyes.

Will they both hope that possibly "Tomorrow we can skate again" …? 

Perhaps together?


Now perhaps, dear reader, what I have been getting at is that the important thing about reading the great books is the “dance of the intellect among words” – producing which dance, after all, is the main purpose of “education.”

Copyright 2013 Christian Gehman all rights reserved.
Posted to blogspot / novelismo April 29/2013
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