One of my school teachers loved encouraging his fourth grade students to read, and at his suggestion I read the story of Hans Brinker & The Silver Skates. This book is undoubtedly the best-known book on Holland by far and it was written by an American!

The narrative describes Dutch life below sea level and the unending battle waged against the sea. But it's also the story of Hans Brinker's skating trip in 1865 along the frozen waterways of the provinces of Northern and Southern Holland.

In this novel, Hans and his sister Gretel want to win silver skates in a skating race, so that they can use the money for their poor father, Raff Brinker, who lost his job after a fall from a scaffolding. It has been said that 99% of the Americans know this so-called Dutch legend about the courageous 'Hans Brinker', mainly by reading the book at school, or hearing the tale from their parents.


While the Pacific Northwest doesn't get the annual snowfall that comes to Minneapolis, we do get our share. Usually it comes at some sudden unexpected time, and in an amount or for a duration that doesn't make you tire of it. So as a child, I loved the snow, and marveled at everything to do with winter, from building snowmen to the way that ice would form on the puddles and ponds.

Friends and relatives would frequently enquire when I was a child: What do you want to be when you grow up?" I would reply that I wanted to be various things at different times, but one of the things I wanted to be was a figure skater. My childhood dream became a reality when I was about ten years old, and I was allowed to go to the ice arena and rent skates for the first time. The Civic Ice Arena in Seattle was located close to my Warren Avenue Elementary School at the bottom of Queen Anne Hill. In time, my mother allowed us to go to the skating rink sometimes after school.

Indoor ice skating rinks maintain a temperature between 45 and 60 degrees, depending on the temperature outside, so it was necessary to dress warmly. After a day of school, my sister and I would stop by the skating rink with enough change for admission, skate rental and a cup of hot cocoa from the snack bar. Sipping slowly to make it last, with the steam from the paper cup of chocolate wafting up our noses, we'd pause momentarily and gaze over the edge of the bleachers at the crowd of children and adults busy taking skating lessons.

Those skaters seemed to glide by like ducks on a pond, making it look so easy. Skating took a lot more than just motivation and perseverence. It took money! And money did not come easy for a little kid. A scandinavian grandma in the neighborhood let me mow her lawn for $1.00. Or I'd ask my mother, who was a single mom, for some coins to rent myself a pair of skates for a couple of hours, and there for that brief period of time, life was transformed into a winter wonderland of music chimed over the loud speaker and an exciting wintry tale that made my own life as a latch-key kid the counterpart of Hans Brinker! My mother even took me to the Ice Follies.

The air was frosty and you could see your breath as I paid the admission at the ticket window, pocketed my ticket and walked through those doors into the skating area, stopping to deposit my school books into one of those green painted metal lockers.

When it came my turn in line and the guy handing out the skates behind his window, handed me that pair of white leather skates with shiny chrome blades, it felt simply super just to sit on the wooden bench and lace up that pair of scuffed white skates. Sometimes I had to tuck the toe of my sock under, to make the pair fit me better. If the skates still did not feel right, I'd return them to the rental window in exchange for another pair.

Then it was a wobbly trek up the bluish grey carpeted ramp to the ice skating floor, with that crowd, including the adolescent boys that might even run over your fingers if you slipped and fell on the ice. Skating for a couple hours made your ankles ache when you couldn't stand up very well on skates. But then you'd feel the relief of taking them off to return them to the rental window. It was like removing water logged sandbags. Then I'd enjoy the walk home to our vintage brownstone apartment building, in time for dinner.

But the fears that went with skating never seemed to daunt my dream of being the most beautiful and professional figure skater. Though my mother didn't obtain lessons for me, I was determined not just able to glide on one foot, but to spin in ecstatic circles, cutting figure eights in the ice. My mother bought me a red pin wale corderoy skating skirt, and this was life.

Have you ever skated before? You'd really like it! Here are a few pointers to help you enjoy the experience!


There are several types of skating that are recognized. These include:


As the years passed, I grew up and married Tom, and a beautiful little blond and blue eyed girl was born to us that we named named Ami. She was always the adventurous type, if there was a chance that she could be with Dad! There was a time when a church bulletin advertized a father and daughter skating party! She held onto that dog earred invitation, until the day arrived, knowing just how wonderful this would be. We drove down to that rink, where she and Dad and I stood in line and rented those skates, so that she could wobble up that wooden ramp on the silver colored things. Then hand in hand, she and Dad stepped out on the sparkling ice.

I sat in the bleachers with a cup of cocoa in hand to cheer their valient efforts. And applauded as they made the circuit and came near my seat at the end of the row. We watched our daughter growing up, taking on the challenges in those years, and she was so much like us. There she was in the beginning, holding onto the wall at the skating rink, inching her way along, as the skaters sped past. But soon she began to get the hang of it. I couldn't help but remember myself in those early years. Saying to myself: "I can do it!"


It seems like yesterday, that I was "Alana The Skater, working hard to master just standing on those silver skates, and getting into the flow of the traffic in the rink, pulling my hands back from the surface of the ice when I'd fall, so the skaters didn't amputate my fingers, with a fast whoosh by on the ice. Working hard toward that dream of making those gorgeous figure eights!"

In retrospect, dreams sometimes materialize exactly the way we see them occur. But sometimes, the expression takes on a new form. In my life, I'm an artist, and I love taking my brush and sliding over the canvas with it, making swirls of color occur exactly when and where I want them.


As numbers have spiritual significance in the bible, eight is the number of new beginnings. God alludes to new beginnings in symbols, like me doing those marvellous and fantastic figure eights! There are times in which we all need a new beginning in one area or another. Our dreams have a way of becoming altered sometimes along the way. An individual may loose their job or just need to find a different form of employment with a higher pay scale. Relationships which have been strained can be renewed. Or if the relationship is one that scripturally a person should not be in, it's time to sever that relationship and to believe that "evil communications (company) corrupt good (morals) manners." (1 Corinthians 15:33)

Sometimes we sense a genuine need to change direction or to begin again in a new location. Jesus wants to be Lord of all of our lives. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25) 38Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off for all whom the Lord our God will call." (Acts 2:38-39)

When the calender year begins, it's the wintry season, when we bundle up and enjoy the colder weather. Our prayers are with you, for that new beginning that you've desired and waited for, whatever it may be! And may the good Lord provide for you richly out of His miraculous abundance and precious life!

Skylark's Snohomish River Art Studio


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