Reflections on Ice

Over the weekend I watched a series of ice skating competitions, short and long programs of individual skaters, ice dancing teams, pair skating, and finally a gala show of performance events, the rules and requirements no longer the issue, but the artistry, beauty, grace and majesty of the skaters brought into focus.
Awesome, indeed, these gyrations, death spirals, gravity-defying throws, swizzles and twizzles, throw jumps, overhead lifts, lutz jumps, layback spins and breath-taking catches in mid-air. Not rocket science? I think perhaps it is, the enormity of remembering to execute a thousand choreographed steps with perfect timing, to do this in tempo to music, to do it with cautious respect of the female body (so many lifts require the male skater to support the female by her pubic bone while she holds her hands beneath his for modesty).
How modest is this sport of ice-dancing, in which both men and women wear revealing, tight-fitting costumes, where the thighs and buttocks of the female skaters flash before us in startling perfection, where the strength of the male skaters is heroic, thrillingly manly? Is ice dancing more or less modest than ballet? But modesty falls away under the spell of the stories being told, lovers in crisis, lovers in conflict, and ultimately lovers in sweet resolution. (How often the dancing pairs end their story with a kiss!)
When my daughters were young, we used to watch the famous skaters of the times: Katerina Witt, Nancy Kerrigan, Tonya Harding, Debi Thomas. So much drama was attached to their names—personal enmity, thrilling competitive moments, Tonya was charged with an attack on Nancy, and Debi, a Stanford medical student, ultimately, years later, left the sport, left medicine, lost her bearings.
My daughters and I checked out library books trying to learn the meanings of the terms triple lutz, salchow, the quad, the double-throw axel, the inside and outside edges of the blades. But never mind, we failed to learn the lingo and simply let the announcers tell us who landed what, and how good it was!
My own long-ago favorite team skaters were Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini. They had between them some magical sexuality, unmatched, unequaled by even the most famous. (See them on You Tube skating to “Unchained Melody.”) The angle of his body canting toward hers, the delicacy with which he lifted, flung and rescued her from a death spiral, and most of all the way their eyes locked in every performance, they never looked away from each other, their passion was tangible.
Barbara Underhill’s heart was later broken when one of her twin baby daughters crawled out a door of her home and drowned in her pool. She thought she must give up skating. In time, but came back on the ice, she recovered day by day till she found some degree of peace. She later created a foundation to assure the safety of children.
As I see it, Underhill and Martini have never been matched since their winning days.  This past weekend, I watched a new champion with the amazing name of Gracie Gold. She danced Stravinsky’s “Firebird,” she melted the ice with her heat and beauty.
I watched her, transfixed. She spun she jumped, she twirled, she shimmered like a diamond. She landed every leap. Her smile, as she finished in triumph, was transcendent.
I watched with an almost tearful yearning. I let myself think the dreamy impossible: Once upon a time I could have done that. In fact, I used to have thighs just like hers!

Can We Be Anti-Depressed?

I’m wondering lately about these medications that encourage us to think that in “four-to-six weeks” we may feel less grief about our losses, less confusion about our terrors, less anxiety about our inability to manage the demands of daily life, less dread about vulnerably, loneliness and death.

And then, of course, there is the sub-text of these psychotropic drugs as in the TV ads where the principal players are dancing through a meadow or a couple in a sailboat are kissing or a grandfather is throwing hoops with the kids while at the same time the voice-over is warning about suicidal ideation, kidney failure, incurable infections, heart arrhythmia or or fatal anemia.

When we find ourselves in a dead-end tunnel with no light slipping in anywhere, we may elect to try these drugs along, at times, with talk therapy.  The pills are pieces of magic as we ingest them and wait for the miracles. Alert and alarmed, we watch for the sinister side-effects like arrivals of mystery-deliveries.  Tremors of the hands.  Unbearable thirst. A throbbing of the heart in strange places, in the mouth, in the neck.  Sudden, thrilling weight gain! (We feel hunger, we feel ravenous for nourishment and joy, we are up at all hours of the night eating peanut butter sandwiches and lemon tarts.)  Are the panic attacks lessening?  Are we sleeping better?  And what about those “serious sexual side effects” that come with these drugs? Is there any way that those side effects are going to return us to a joyful life?

For days and weeks we count on the implied promise of feeling happy, or maybe just a bit happier if not ecstatic.  We look at the pills as if little genies inside them are gathering potency and soon, any moment now, they will blast forth and we will feel release, and joy, peace and love.

No miracle really happens.  No one knows if these drugs really work, no one is certain, but some think maybe they might.  Some accept that perhaps one’s terrors simply lessen with time and one is not as tuned in to cosmic unhappiness or despair as once one was.

Or we face up to the reality that we’re here, there are no deals to make, and no genies in a bottle.  We get a grip.  Or we lose our grip.  One day follows another and that is the delivery we get each day. A new day every day may feel unremarkable, but it’s all there is.  It is, in fact, everything.