Yes, after 2 weeks off the ice due to the worst case of bronchitis to ever occur since His Holiness fled Tibet for India in 1959 (My throat felt like it had been personally visited by the Gestapo, my lungs sounded like maracas, and I lost my voice for 10 days), Rosie returned to that universe of speed and space, bravely going to where her butt had never gone before.
I first returned to the Kettler Iceplex on Wednesday, the day after Washington’s rock and role dance to the tune of 5.8 on the Richter Scale and I was none the worse for wear. My hockey skating instructor, however, had other things in mind. Kerstin, 6 foot 1 in skates and with more power in her legs than a fast moving freight train, just grabbed me and took me out into open ice at twice my top speed and had me practicing turns and stops. When my hip flexors, glutes, and knees screamed for mercy, she then had me practice side pushes and side lunges in my skates by the board. Lesson over, she abandoned me to my own devices which consisted of nothing more than a 5-minute break and two laps on open ice with me in a daze but somehow my legs knew what to do. I don’t remember seeing any people on the ice, but no more do I have to call “Peewee Alert.”
Dessert was available that night as a nice looking goalie about my age told me how he was looking forward to teaching his “advanced students” the fine arts of ADD, body contortion, and autism. I donned my trekking fleece (O we shall not get bronchitis again) bedecked with patches of Bedouin and Vietnamese hill tribe embroidery and patches from mountains I’ve climbed in the Alps and the Rockies and sat on the benches to watch the young guns do their thing. After watching five sets of five guys, all in their 20s wipe themselves out doing 3 sets of toe-starting Ovie Breakaways and two-second hockey stops at full throttle become utterly exhausted and utterly besieged, I realized that getting in shape is a state of mind no matter what your age is. Sadly I had to head home and crash as I must earn my Peter’s Pence. As I slipped off, Mr. Goalie flashed me a huge smile. O where O where can my baby be… has been humming through my head ever since.
This morning began with an auspicious if not awkward start. Ah, sleep pleasant sleep, I woke up with my alarm clock cradled to my chest, reading 8:45 am — two hours late! But, what can I say when I dream of a Chinese Buddhist monastery full of nuns and they are all entreating me to become their Hockey Master? Hockey, like meditation, is where every second counts and you never know what the next second will bring… like tonight.
There I am back at the rink. My skates are on but I don’t feel too centered. I did two laps around on the open ice and then tell Malkin and Crosby to get off the ice. Just when is the age of mature consciousness? Are 10 and 12 year olds responsible for their actions or should their parents be held accountable? The kids laughed at my old Catholic quaintness. Their sporting Penguins’ jerseys on the Caps home practice rink was to be edgy, to deliberately show defiance. And what the hey, the kids were great skaters.
So I take a breather and tighten my laces. Papa to the right of me is speaking Russian to his four year old and Mama to the left of me is talking to her 7 year old in Chinese and we’re all having a good time. We head back out to the ice and I do a couple more laps and some of the calisthenics Kerstin taught me. My knees and thighs are really getting it, no wobbliness and no whining. Since my goal is just a work out and not to achieve any new standard (though it seems with each skate I discover there’s 20 more things I’ve got to learn in order to get to the next level), I take another 5 minute break. I realize I’ve become completely at ease in my cage mask. I can look around and see people and chat while I’m moving. I’m no longer hugging the walls at all. There’s no more wooden feeling in my right knee either; it was totally alive and ready, a very, very good feeling.
So, there I am in my fourth lap and I decide to practice a side maneuver which Kerstin had showed me and try to make a 90-degree turn. O smooth, so smooth, and yet somehow that 90 degrees is becoming 180 and well, just enjoy the momentum and I do a full 360. Wow, a total circle! So far so good, but how do I come out of it? NOT! Well, might as well work with the momentum of physics and not against it, I wait for a moment when all was clear and pitch forward, arms stretched out like I’m going to dive. Perfect landing! My elbow pads took 80 percent of the fall and my belly the remaining 20 percent. No torques, twists, or bounces. Now where was that puck I was blocking?
Of course, I was a little stunned, but I was laughing at my well executed dive. But like I said, you never know what is going to happen next and to my great chagrin, I wondered how in the hell was I going to stand up on open ice? I worried that if I tried, I might do the split — and that is something I could never do even when I wanted to. So I signal for a rink rat and over comes this blond-haired beanpole, 6 foot five, two feet wide, and about three inches thick. He definitely had to be Zdano Charra’s twig in a former life. We figure out an approach and the Dude helps me up faster than when I went down. Dude sees that Dudette is laughing, so it’s time for him to push on and help that wipe out at the other end of the rink. I finish my lap and sit another spell.
Five minutes later I’m back at it and have a completely placid loop de loop twice around the rink. I do some more calisthenics and call it a night. And as Grasshopper removes her gear she quickly discovers why her skates didn’t feel quite so centered — a sock from Wednesday night had wedged itself under the shoe base of my right skate. So Grasshopper here is ready to eat crow, but hey, I sure did skate pretty good for being “off center”!
As the Buddha says, all is created by mind. The corollary to which is, if you didn’t know you did something stupid, then quit worrying about it.
Thanks for reading!
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