Over an extra long holiday weekend I watched a little bit of the start of the abbreviated NHL season, but mostly I spent it outside, in multiple layers, chasing pucks in the sumptuously crisp and frigid air of southern Maine. My friends for all forms of frozen fun, Mike and Marleen, arranged for me to be a part of some spirited shinny out on a stunning quarry setting near Freeport. I very much looked the L.L. Bean part. Better: at one point the bladed Mainers even termed me a “ringer.” (My father received a text to this effect rather immediately.)
I was immersed in a community very serious about its shinny. When Michael and I arrived at the heavenly locale Saturday morning one skating elder was aboard an ATV out on the quarry with a powerful snow blower attached to its front, a torrent of snow hurled high and wide out of the rectangular skating sheet fast being created. Sunday brought a bit of a thaw — and much-needed rest for my hamstrings — but that evening another shinny loyalist in this setting fashioned a hole in one corner of the ice (at least a foot thick) and pumped water out over all of the three rinks we’d skated the day before. When we arrived Monday morning it was as if a Zamboni had double-cut the playing surfaces.
An inspiration: My 60-something-year-old friend Michael, a native of D.C. but for the past three years blissfully retired in Portland, Maine, took to the indoor ice Sunday for a Pre Alpha skating class at his neighborhood rink. Every skater recalls those terrifying first steps on skates, but few of us attempt them without the advantage of the fearlessness of youth. But Michael is oh so young at heart. Michael has simply socialized with too many Mainers the past few years who spend an exceptional amount of time all winter long skating Maine’s frozen ponds, and he no longer wants to be left out of the camaraderie and action. Michael watched every second of our quarry shinny this weekend, and I can’t wait to skate on a line with my pal out there next January.