Opportunities taken; opportunities missed

Grab opportunities to skate when they come -- whether in a kilt or not. On Friday morning, the sun was bright, the temperatures cold, the wind wicked, and the rink at Nathan Phillips Square almost deserted. With a half hour before the stores at the Eaton's Centre to open, and one hour before a scheduled reading, there's more than enough time to freeze the knees.

  Starting a busy morning off on the right foot... skate.

Starting a busy morning off on the right foot... skate.

The trip to the Eaton's Centre was to pick up a book to read at the presentation.  What kind of writer shows up at the Ontario Library Association's Superconference without extra copies of his book to read from if called upon? The kind who's willing to pack in the course of one hour: a skate, a shopping expedition, a subway ride and brisk walk in cold weather to the Toronto Convention Centre.

  Presentation thanks to the Canadian Association of Children's Authors, Illustrators and Performers.

Presentation thanks to the Canadian Association of Children's Authors, Illustrators and Performers.

It gives one pause to think about how much can be packed into a day -- how many opportunities seized, but also how many lost, how many fumbled for lack of being in the moment. Yesterday was a packed day.

Today, when it came time to leave Toronto. the route back home came close enough to the summer cottage that a short detour gave a chance to see what it would be like as a winter cottage: familiar sights now strange and wondrous under a blanket of snow.

  Familiar territory in an unfamiliar season.

Familiar territory in an unfamiliar season.

The purpose of the visit is to check for any damage. Have the mice found a way in?  Have the squirrels decided to take up quarters above the suspended ceiling?  Is the antifreeze protecting the plumbing.  And above all, how does the place look on a sunny winter day after a fresh snowfall?

  Frozen lake. Not much snow cover. But uncertain ice conditions after the warm spell.

Frozen lake. Not much snow cover. But uncertain ice conditions after the warm spell.

The Barnhart brothers were busy ploughing the road into the lake. They warned how thin the ice has been.  No ice fishing on the lake this winter.  On another lake, not far away, an experienced man had fallen through the ice and drowned. And with those kinds of warnings in mind, caution takes hold of the imagination. It closes to the mind to possibilities.

  I wish I had a lake to skate away on.  Hey, wait a minute... I do!

I wish I had a lake to skate away on.  Hey, wait a minute... I do!

The inspections done, a short walkabout completed, and it's time to hit the road again.  And about half an hour down the highway, the thought strikes:  "Wait a minute, I have skates with me.  I could have gone skating!"  Never mind the thin ice. When you know where the beaches and the shallows are, when you know the spots where no currents will corrupt the ice from below, you can certainly manage that risk.  The snow cover was minimal. It would have been a perfect day to skate -- have a lake to skate away on.

So here's the problem: it's so easy to let the guilt of opportunities missed to overshadow the joy of opportunities taken.  Yes, it would have been a glorious and righteous thing to lace up the skates down at the lakeside. What about the Barnharts' warnings? Keep close to the shoreline. Glide along the bays and points. You'd have been fine.

So here it is at the end of a good day at the end of a spectacular couple of days -- so many great moments -- and what seizes the mind is, "Why didn't you go skating on the lake?  You may never have a chance like that again!"

Maybe. Maybe not. But perhaps wisdom lies in learning to shrug off the regret for the road not taken -- the skate not skated.  And back in Ottawa, the best way to resolve that is to go up the street and down the stairs to the Rideau Canal Skateway.  The canal is now open from Bank Street to the National Arts Centre -- plenty of space and lots of time to get the mind back into the moment.

  Sk8 #16 of the season.  Bank Street Bridge.

Sk8 #16 of the season.  Bank Street Bridge.