Thank you to everyone who submitted a story to the nonfiction portion of the Winter in the Bay writing contest. Today, Emily McDonah and Donna McInnis describe arriving in St. Margaret’s Bay from somewhere else, and falling in love with ice skating on frozen lakes.
You can still submit your nonfiction essay of 350 words or less or your fictional short story of 2,500 words or less any time for sharing. We will post those stories here once all contest entries have been published. Let’s keep telling our stories of the Bay!
Growing up in Glen Margaret in the eighties and nineties, surrounded by trees alongside Fraser’s Lake, to me, was the ultimate childhood. “Hold on. No internet? No Xbox? I dunno Mom…” my boys aren’t sure they agree, but I can’t look back on those years without a smile.
As a kid, if it was winter, you could more or less count on the lake to be safe for skating. Folks of all ages would make their way to their corner of the lake and you’d be sure to meet somewhere in the middle. To this day, I’ve not experienced anything quite like the freedom and magic of a pristine frozen lake, wide open to explore. There’d often be a hockey game happening at one end, boots for goal posts, but that never held me. Taking off wide open with the chilly breeze stinging your cheeks, the lake quite literally felt endless.
Untying skates with numb fingers, the foreign feeling of flat boots after hours on blades, the excited chatter about the adventures of the day. It never got old, and unless the sledding hills were calling, we would show up day after day – the lake holding promise every time.
Though the most magical memories for me are on frozen ice, perhaps because that’s a rare treat to enjoy anymore, the lake was the backdrop to countless childhood memories year-round. By Spring you could find us casting worm-laden fishing lines, rarely patient or quiet enough to bring home supper, but happy just to have traded in our snowsuits for rubber boots and ball caps.
Long before it was actually swimming weather, we’d hit the water. If memory serves, even one exceptionally sunny March afternoon saw us holding hands, counting to three and jumping in! We would swim, tumble, float and explore day after day. Thanks to the old yellow canoe that now waits for my own boys to inherit it, we saw every inch of that lake for the gift that it was. The gift that it is, and one I cannot wait for them to uncover.
Emily McDonagh illustrated her story with Mary Lynne MacKay’s “Frozen Lake.” To read Mary Lynne’s inspiration for this work, visit the Winter in the Bay online gallery and click on the image of the painting.
Transplanted from Saskatchewan to Glen Haven in the 1970s, I lamented the slow onset of winter. Repeated cycles of freeze and thaw during the early months of winter kept me from venturing out on the cove that was right across the road. However, when Frostfish Cove eventually froze over, I thrilled to the discovery of salt water ice.
What an adventure it was to get on the ice across the shifting ice shelf. Neighbourhood kids seemed to have no trouble jumping the clumpers, but I remember that at eight months pregnant, I timidly crawled across to take a spin on skates.
Ocean ice is elastic and so the gentle give of the ice sheet is thrilling. The ferocious cracks and groans heard on lakes and ponds don’t plague salt water skaters. I remember having to watch out for the circles where a skater might fall through. These circles were usually further out toward the open water and formed a warning sign to skaters who were drawn toward the edge. Ice fishers could be seen hovering over these holes for days at a stretch. The holes froze up when the fishers went home.
Frostfish Cove was lively in the winter months. Rinks were cleared overnight, by unknown elves and fairies. Spontaneous hockey games included any players who showed up. Children learned to skate by falling over and standing again for hours on end. Dogs chased people and people chased dogs, sliding. The fishers dotted the far edge of the Cove.
And the lakes! There were all-ages hockey matches. My husband had learned to skate as an adult. He knew how to glide, but was not expert at any other manoeuvre, like stopping or turning. Teams were mutable, goal posts moved around. The non-regulation games put roses on our cheeks.
The lakes were wonderful. In good conditions, one could skate across to visit places inaccessible at other times of year. The expanse of the lake, and the backdrop of the forest made a breathtaking stage for the occasional ice dance routine.
Donna McInnis says, “Thanks to Sue George for the inspiration of her work, ‘Winter Cove.’ To see Sue’s inspiration for her painting, visit the online gallery and click on the image.