Friday, December 7, 2012

Walking on Water

     I grew up on the Puget Sound. Winters were mild. Summers were full of rain. But there was one winter with a succession of days so cold that nearby Snake Lake froze over. My father, who was born in the neighborhood, said it used to freeze nearly every year when he was a boy. He bundled us all into the car and we drove down to the lake. It was such a peculiarity that dozens of other families were already there ahead of us. Some of them even had skates. It was a beautiful sight, just like a scene from a Christmas card.

     Other than a frozen mud puddle here and there, I had never walked on ice. I slid down the bank with my brothers and sisters and stepped onto the edge of the small lake. I wasn’t more than eight years old and the whole idea of walking out into the middle had me frightened. I wasn’t afraid of falling down, I was afraid of falling through. Even though there were lots of people scooting back and forth across the ice, I dabbled around the edges. I wasn’t an adventurous child.

     Then my father came along, took my hand and led me across to the other side. I remember holding tightly to his hand and sliding the soles of my shoes carefully across the uneven surface. There were twigs and leaves trapped in the ice; maybe there were fish and frogs watching me from below. I imagined myself gliding and twirling effortlessly like Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates, but I felt more like a tottering, newborn colt just learning to walk. The lake was surrounded by evergreens, leafless scrub, and thin, frosty, winter air. There was an undercurrent of shared excitement and, best of all, the inimitable wonder of walking on water. I was still afraid that the ice wouldn’t hold me, that at any minute it might crack and the dark water would swallow me, my confidence in the ice was thin because I'd had no experience with it, but beneath the fear was the strength of my father's hand and the solid trust I had that he would rescue me from danger. If not for that trust, I would still be dabbling around the edges.

art credit Paul Gauguin


  1. These memories shared are so precious.

  2. My father has that same comforting strength. I was probably too comfortable on the ice due to being introduced to it at such a young age. I never questioned its ability to hold me. It has been a while. I know I'd be more questioning now.