It is minus 13 without the wind-chill factored in. My bronchial tubes tell me it is too cold to be doing this: setting off down the winding lane for an evening skate on the river. The frigid air bites nastily at my nose, seeps cold air deep down into my lungs. We trudge through foot-high snowdrifts towards the flicker of the flame. Down on the river, it burns hot over thick ice- a blazing ball of fire. Straw bale torch light. Children scramble to kick off winter boots that stiffen in the arctic chill, even as these are carelessly tossed aside. Only to be lost in the shadows looming large behind hockey bags and the like. A steady banter continues as each skate boot is quick laced up before eager skaters are then sent off to test the ice. And they are off! Figures moving in all directions, a scuttle and scurry of activity. It is too dark to see which child is which, for they fast become dark misshapen figures zooming back and forth, cutting figure eights behind the fire.
I feel it coming then. The smothering of air-tubes closing over. The cold air triggering my asthma. And I wonder why it is that something so beautiful, so picturesque- as this idyllic scene before me lies, why even this can be given leeway to wreak such havoc with my lungs. I turn to leave, but the damage is done. The tightness constricts and I find myself gasping.
Beauty can birth pain sometimes.
Sometimes the most beautiful of things in life bring the most heartache. A difficult relationship. A stubborn habit. A painful past. A searing memory. A crushing blow, an epic loss. Even the wind lashing waves on the water brings beauty for some, headache for others. All are beautiful in their time. But when time makes allowances for suffering, beauty quickly fades. And pain sets in to stiffen the joints, weakening the bonds. Dissolving even that which seemed impenetrable.
And life is full of such. Beauty and pain. Pain inside beauty. And sometimes, we take the pain because in passing it over, we might otherwise miss the beauty.
For pain also births beauty. And any mother can proclaim the joy whereby searing flesh produces life. It is pain indeed. But if not for the pain, there would be no life. No baby’s cry. No finger grasped in a newborn clasp. The earth groans in pain as new life springs forth after winter’s desolation. And with each new bud, each leaf unfurled, pain produces life.
I did not wish to head out in the cold, but I felt it calling to me. Beckoning, it was. The voice of time. Heed the cry of that which is fleeting! Don’t pass up these moments! Yes, I could have stayed inside and passed on this hacking cough. But I would’ve missed it.
The magic of an evening skate on a cold mid-winter’s eve.