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Grace on Ice

It was one of those fall days where every golden leaf that drifted from the sycamore trees held a memory: mom and dad ordering my sisters and me to rake up mounds of crimson and pomegranate orange Modesto ash leaves splattered on our lawn; sisters and me diving into the mounds as soon as we raked them up; the cobalt sky accented by a few stratus clouds and golden light gleaming from the slides and swings in the park across the street, beckoning us to play and dream. In those days bonfires were all the rage and the smell was intoxicating.

Anyway, snapping back to the present, I am biking along the recreation trail, starting at Portola Plaza in Monterey: a huge circular plaza centered with a gaily splashing Spanish fountain. Of all the events Ive seen staged here, from car shows to First Night New Years festivities, the one I behold takes the cake: an outdoor ice skating rink.

Talk about nostalgia: when I was six we lived briefly in Minnesota where my older sister and I took ice skating lessons. Sis broke her leg doing a shoot the duck and I just remember standing on wobbly ankles, freezing to the bone, crying, Mo-o-o-mmy, when can we go home?

Mom told me I actually led the Ice Capades as a little penguin but I think she made that up.

Today, in the rather smallish rink, some adults are gliding easily across the sparkling ice and kids are slip sliding on their tusches or grinning as they grip the surrounding wooden fence while their unstable little ankles quiver.

And there, in the center of the rink, I spy a woman who must have been born on ice. Like a ballerina atop a music box, she lazily spins herself into a blur and comes out of it extending her graceful arms. She then slices around the rink backwards, easily avoiding everyone else around her.

She owns the rink and knows it. Her sleek skating is more like a prayer or meditation - her spirit unbound. This art form always humbles me, whether I am watching it live or on TV. Its one of the most difficult sports and looks the easiest. In my next incarnation I want to be a professional skater.

After awhile, I pedal out to Seaside, along the ocean dunes, beside the foaming sea and ask myself, I wonder where Ill go when I die, since Ive already lived in Paradise?



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