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11/26/02
Now, for a little fiction:

     He opened the car door, stepped out into a friendly gust of winter, and looked out on the silver pond. A boy and a girl, young and just discovering the feeling of falling in love, were looping around each other in a harmony of imperfections. He could almost hear their laughter above the wind. But, for the most part, his eyes were all he needed. He looked out from the woven wool of his hat and scarf and took in all he could of the scene: The strokes of green giving away the shapes of snow-covered conifers and the grassy remains of a warm autumn; the millions of ice crystals that made the ground shimmer in the sunlight at his back; the downward slope of the gentle, playful land toward the pond; and the rings of light in the ice, footprints left by hours of carefree gliding. He looked up. The sky was a pleasant pale blue, almost a summer shade, occasionally interrupted by a cloud or two. In one cloud, he saw a doe nuzzling her fawn, and in another, the pattern that a stream makes trickling over rocks in the forest.

     But the streams in the woods nearby were frozen at this time of the year, as was the pond, he reminded himself. The boy and girl had skated to the bank and were sitting on a blackened log partially covered with snow. They were very animated, even from a distance, but the pond was now empty, and begging for some company. He turned around and opened the back door of the car, watching the peaceful scene slide along its reflective surface in slow motion, and reached in to get his ice skates.

     His skates were black, with white bladeholders and laces and gray trim. The blades were perfect mirrors of the winter around him - far less intrusive than the door of the car, which he closed as he began to walk down the hill. The muted crunch of his feet in the untouched snow left a path from the top of the hill to the edge of the pond, where he sat down and laced up his skates. He tied them tightly, and gusts of wind seemed to accompany each tug on the laces until the blades became natural extensions of his legs. He took woven mittens from his jacket pockets and pulled them onto his hands before he pushed himself up.

     He shifted his weight from his left leg to his right, adjusted his scarf, and kicked off. The wind moved around his body as he moved over the frozen pond, slowly at first and then accelerating with each thrust in his legs. He became gradually blind to his surroundings but aware of himself: he did not notice that the young couple had left, but still felt completely and utterly alone. His mind was an impenetrable fortress as it roamed across the unconscious like his eyes across the landscape and his body across the ice. He was curving back and forth randomly with nothing better and nothing worse to do in the universe, at complete peace with the winter around him and oblivious to any other human in existence. The wind, the ice, the trees, the sky: this was his world, the only world he needed.

     Yet something was missing. He became suddenly aware of this fact when he heard, somehow above the wind, the crunch of human footsteps coming down the hill behind him. They were gentler than his own, but mysteriously more noticeable. He let himself carve a gentle semicircle in the ice to turn around and see what he had heard behind him. Though the figure was several hundred feet away, he recognized it instantly and began moving towards it with a familiar excitement, suddenly aware of the warm scarf covering his mouth. As he approached the newcomer, he recognized more and more: slender shape, then dark denim pants and a puffy vest, then straight blonde hair under a blue winter hat, and finally, smiling blue eyes over a striped scarf.

     "And I thought I was happy here by myself," he said as he glided to a stop.

     "And I thought you could use some company," she replied, and he could see her smile through her scarf.

     He smiled back. "I suppose I could." He held out his hand, and as she took it, he pulled her gently on to the ice. He was gliding backward, she forward and into him. After watching the winter disappear behind her, he stopped and pulled her close. They were facing each other in the middle of the pond, and the wind was no longer a distraction. In perfect symmetry, their left hands wrapped around each other's waists, and their right hands pulled down each other's scarves. The glitter of the ice and the traces of the trees disappeared as their eyes closed and their lips met. Winter wasn't cold anymore.