The satisfying skriitch of blades on ice

Susan and I went skating outside on Sunday, on a track at a provincial park that has caught my fancy ever since I first heard about it a few years ago:

Zipping around this track turned me into a joyful 10 year old. The ice was a little mushy in the unnaturally warm February day, the track only took about five minutes to skate completely around, and I was wearing clunky, too-big rented skates — but I was deeply joyful.

Two weeks ago, I skated on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa with my family, all of us delighting that my 15 year old niece’s first real job is as a maker of Beavertails in the iconic hut right on the canal. My youngest sister pushed my 3 year old nephew in his stroller — being a Canadian, he CAN skate, but he was tired. The rest of us just tootled along, cold air fresh on our faces.

I am trying to understand what it is about skating outside that gives me so much joy — especially when I never make any attempt to skate in my own city. Going around a rink, inside or out, doesn’t hold a lot of appeal — it just makes me imagine cold and sore feet. And I don’t really have the perfect skating clothes. (And my skates live in Ottawa, at my sister’s, along with my cross country skis. Although it’s a very Canadian thing to say “hey there are some skates in the basement that may fit you — try those.”)

So why is skating around outside so appealing? Well, first, I’m a pretty strong skater, and a speed skater in my fantasy life, and it’s fun to do things that I feel good at.

Skating under the trees, in the sun, is elemental — look at me being at one with the wilderness!

Skating is unstructured movement, with no time goals, or strava segments, or requirements — you skate to the point where you are kind of tired, and then you stop.

Even though my figure skating days were pretty rudimentary, skating has that flow of movement that feels like dancing, and that’s a very joyful sensation.

But more than any of this — I realized — I love the *sound* of skating. I absolutely love the scratch of blades on ice, the skritch of a sudden stop, the whoosh of the soft wind, the flow. Blades on ice is one of my most satisfying ASMR-like sounds — followed quickly by the sound of an ambient hockey game, with the sounds of wood striking the puck, puck thwacking the boards added to the scratching of blades.

(It turns out I’m not alone in this — you can find several ASMR channels devoted to blades on ice — skating inside, skating outside with wind, hockey with and without words).

All of this made me wonder about the sensory aspects of physical movement that we don’t pay a lot of attention to. I have written a lot about the pleasure I take in music while running, spinning or doing cross-fit — but I don’t think I’ve really gone deep into the role of the sensory pleasure I take in doing these things.

But when I pause and immerse myself in sense memory? I feel the CLICK that happens when bike shoe goes into pedal and I fuse into my bike frame.

I shudder at the silken second skin of my favourite lululemon workout tights fabric as they smooth over my calves.

I feel the secure sensation of tucking my boobs into a perfectly fitting, smooth-fabric workout bra.

I can conjure up the softness of the pale warmth of sun on my skin on a winter day, the pure flame of summer sun promising eternal warmth to my bare shoulders.

I can sense the knobby texture of an unpaved running path under perfectly fitting shoes, and the smoothness of my favourite yoga mat under my bare feet.

I hear the flick sound of a perfectly dipped canoe paddle as it tangoes with the water, the cinnamon lemon smell of a killaloe sunrise beavertail on the Canal.

Sensory aspects of moving my body that have nothing to do with performance, exertion or outcomes. Just the joy of being with the incidental things that come along with moving. The things we don’t notice that shape presence in our bodies.

What about you? What are the incidental sensory aspects of moving your body that give you delight?

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives in Toronto and should apparently skate more.

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