My friend Ben and I walk down to the lake near my house in Waterford, Maine, fully equipped, with our jackets, gloves, hats, and neck-warmers. But most importantly, we have our ice skates. We have come to take advantage of the slick, frozen ice before it is covered with snow for the winter. Every year we have a short interval when the skating is perfect. The sun is shining off the ice covering Qeoka Lake and making it glow like a gem. Ben and I have looked forward to this moment all year. Even though we turned seventeen this fall, he and I will never be too old to ice skate on the lake.
When I walk down to the small beach, I sit on a cold rock, take off my gloves, and put my skates to the side. I need to work fast because bare fingers get cold in the blink of an eye on dry, winter days like today. After I have pulled off my boots, I loosen the laces on my skates and, with some effort, force my feet into them. The hockey skates are stiff because they haven’t been used for a full year. When I have finished tying my laces, I check to see if Ben has finished tying his, and then I awkwardly walk to the ice.
The feeling of skating for the first time in a year cannot be compared to many things. Ben and I are neither hockey players nor fast skaters; rather we skate for the sole purpose of having fun on the lake. At first we just skate around in circles in a small area to re-accustom ourselves. Just to be cautious, Ben brings his hammer and chisel and tests the ice in ten different spots to check for the depth. We take turns testing the depth of the ice by plunging our already chilly hands into the freezing cold water and feeling for the bottom of the ice. As we expect, the ice is at least four inches thick, plenty enough to support a person.
“This ice is thick enough,” I say to Ben.
“Yeah definitely, do you want to skate around the lake?”
“Yeah, sure.” Generally I don’t like to skate for more than a mile, but today is one of the only, if not the only time, that I will be able to skate on the lake this year. The ice is smoother than glass. With the ice reflecting the sunlight and the rolling hills in the background, the entire area is very pretty. Shielding my eyes from the piercing sun I ask, “Where do you want to go?”
“To the rocks?”
“Alright,” I say, and we’re off. The rocks, as we refer to them, are a huge pile of boulders in the center of Lake Queoka. We start skating, and we get moving quite fast. Ben is somewhat of a faster skater than I am, and so for the whole ten minutes I am quite out of breath. When we arrive at the rocks, we each find a boulder on which to sit and recuperate. In silence we each look out at the mountain next to my house. Mt. Tirem is a small but nice mountain; a hike takes only about half an hour, but the view from the peak of surrounding mountains, hills, and lakes is outstanding. Mt. Tirem is especially pretty now as the sun is setting; rays of light burst through the tops of trees on the peak of the mountain, creating faint shadows on the ice.
“You know, we really do live in an amazing place,” I tell Ben. “Many people drive hours to be in Western Maine and can only stay for a week. Where we live is their destination.”
“Yeah, Waterford, is a very nice place.” Before we skate back to the beach, where we started from, we each take our picture against the contour of Mt. Tirem.
Ben and I take a long route back to the beach, skating in circles and simply enjoying ourselves. The ice is slicker and smoother than any hockey rink, and its expanse is seemingly endless. Looking down into the black abyss, I can see tiny pockets of air that were caught in the ice as it froze. Ice is one of the most beautiful formations in nature because it can come in so many different shapes and sizes. It is amazing to see the sun reflecting off the ice. To me, Lake Queoka, in the winter, is one of the most tranquil places I know.
For another hour, the two of us freely skate, enjoying the brisk winter air. Our cheeks and noses feel as if they are about to fall off from the cold, but our bodies are really sweating from the exertion. We take frequent breaks and sit of the ice, enjoying the moments.
“Hey, you know what?” Ben breaks out all of a sudden. “We should try to play hockey here.”
“Alright, I’ll get some sticks and you get a chunk of ice.” I skate over to the shore and find some suitable sticks and begin to bend and break them until they somewhat resemble hockey sticks. Ben grabs a chunk of ice for a makeshift hockey puck and four stones to mark the goal lines. Then we fumble around in the dimming light, flailing our sticks, and probably look incredibly stupid, but we are having fun and that’s all that we care about. After we have each scored many goals we get bored and throw the sticks back to shore.
“I’m getting pretty cold. Do you want to head back to your house?” Ben asks.
“Yeah that sounds good, it’s getting pretty dark out. My dad said that he was baking a pie for when we return.”
“Great! Your dad’s pies are the best!”
He and I skate back to the beach and awkwardly walk back up to the rocks and put our freezing shoes back on. With our cold feet, hands, nose, ears, chin, and eyelids, Ben and I are ready to sit next to a warm fire with delicious mug of hot chocolate and a slice of pie. We walk back to my house in the dark, laughing the whole way. My dad is there to greet us with a pumpkin pie in the oven. Ben and I make ourselves hot chocolate and sit next to the fireplace and catch up on the last month. We celebrate a December day well spent.
The next morning when I wake up, I see thick layer of snow on the ground. It has no doubt covered the ice so that it is now inaccessible. Ben and I will have to wait until next year to go ice skating on Lake Queoka again.
Eli Ross ‘15