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Skating Amid Crystal Leaves

leaf crystal 7 Papineau Lake Dec 2020

Every Advent, I fix my eyes on the Child Jesus. I also focus on the weather because it’s early December, and I’m hungry for ice-covered ponds and lake bays. Hungry to play hockey on hard, glassy water.

These two fixations are united because The Father alone makes the best ice. In ways that my imagination is never able to imagine.

I must live surrendered and obedient, though, because He doesn’t always provide it. This year and in 2019, the Master of the impossible had.

Plenty of mild weather swept through November into December until the beginning of the third week of Advent. That’s when the candle of joy got the nod for light. Gaudete Sunday, Latin for rejoice.

St Paul, in the second reading, tells us, “Brothers and sisters, rejoice, always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1Thess 5: 16) That’s a tall call amid the trials that I and others have faced in 2020. But the Lord comes to us in them when we trust and rejoice in His will, in whatever he allows happening to us.

Ice Time

The weather gurus warned us of a multi-day temperature plunge holding at a nightly -22 C with no more than -15 C daytime rise. Consistently cold temps without snow, plus calm nights is the equation for perfect ice.

I awoke early on Dec 18 feeling a nudge from above. Ice flashed through my mind. Morning prayer filled my heart with rejoicing and His desire called me outside like a command, “Go, it’s time to pray and play.”

I headed to the south end of Papineau Lake, where, last December, he created beautiful ice art. Read about that gift, here.

I wasn’t sure if enough ice formed in such a short time, so the lake’s south bay, with its shallow stretch of water, was ideal. With thoughts of clear, hard, untouched ice, I arrived to find a frozen bay as expected, but my startled eyes found something I’ve never encountered in over 50 years of pond hockey.

What seemed like cotton balls or clumps of feathers covered the entire ice sheet. My science mind and learning had nothing there to explain this sight.

Preoccupied with falling through, I gingerly checked the ice. The window-clear sheet, about three inches max, over a sandy bottom made me feel like I was standing on water. On skates? I wasn’t sure.

With the safety test done, my attention moved quickly from safe ice to those puzzling structures all over the surface. As I laced my skates, I felt a powerful draw toward them.

A close look at one near me revealed feather or leaf-like features as if someone had created tabletop Christmas decorations.

Papineau Ice Crystals Dec 18

For me, to stop lacing my skates, there’s a Marian apparition unfolding or the second coming of our Saviour. I put my shoes back on to get a closer view.

Clusters of uniquely arranged leaves of ice, as if growing from a single drop of water, covered the ice surface.

A central vein on each leaf, from which tiny ones radiated on either side provided the symmetry, much like their green cousins.

ice crystal Papineau Lake Dec 2020

My fascination with them made me explore the unique arrangements of each cluster. Like people and snowflakes, I couldn’t find one the same.

leaf crystal and puck Papineau Lake Dec 2020
leaf crystal 7 Papineau Lake Dec 2020
Glorious Ice Leaves Papineau Lake, Dec 2020

Gotta Skate

A thirst to skate eventually interrupted the exploration, but wonder kept flowing, fuelled by the surrounding silence and an awareness of the Lord’s presence.

He is always there with me whenever I go to a remote place to pray and play. Many of those encounters with Him I’ve written about for this website. He loves to come and play with us.

As I laced my skates again, I looked around in awe of God’s creative genius and His insatiable desire to have some fun with what He’s already made.

I heard Him tell me, not aloud, but noticeably clear in my heart, “I wanted you to see some of my own Christmas decorations, Rod, as I’ve been watching and helping you with yours.”

I replied, “Lord, I don’t want to skate over them.”

“Go, I want to skate with you; their source is infinite.”

I glided off, at first trying to avoid them. But my passion for playing on window-clear lake ice took over. I felt like I was ruining a Divine work of art.

Next, I thought I’d use them to test my stickhandling. As you can see in the video below they presented a major challenge.

One More Surprise

On a stretch of ice close to shore, I skated over a dozen fish, each one about a pound or two, it seemed. They were as startled to see me as I was to see them. First time for me, and I’m sure the fish.

Off they dashed before I could tell what kind they were, and get a photo. Sounds like another fish tale, right?

Resting In Creation

To close the day, I laid down just to be surrounded by the grandeur of ice, sunlight pouring through a blue sky. All of it, His work. You have captured me to be all yours. Thank you Almighty Father for what you have done here.

leaf crystal 6 Papineau Lake Dec 18 2020
two-inch glass Papineau Lake, Dec 18 2020

Published in PRAY AND PLAY