I Wish You Discomfort

There is no image with this blog post. I hope you don’t mind. It’s just that, on New Year’s Eve, when this story takes place, I had a personal press blackout. And also, my camera froze up a little bit.

We’d traveled with some other families to a cabin in northern Minnesota for that weird space between Christmas and New Year’s. We do it every year, travel during that time. We don’t go far. But it seems like after the hosting hubbub of Christmas, we’re all ready for a break from the house.

We did some skiing, some snow tubing, even some dogsledding. It’s nice up north in winter. Nobody else is up there, except a few other rosy-cheeked souls. I like the empty sound of boots crunching cold snow. I like the snap of a fire at night. We stayed somewhere we could get one of our favorite things: Free breakfast in a lodge.

But the kids were up really early every day, and we played hard in that snow. By 11 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, most of us were tuckered out. I almost went to bed myself. Except the lake out there beyond the cabin wouldn’t let me.

The ice cracks on a frozen lake. It shifts and groans and when cars drive out to their ice houses, it can cause big fissures on the surface. The cracking makes an echo, and it’s a really haunting and lonely sound. It’s seductive, in a strange way.

Jim, my friend Kyle, and I, were the last ones standing on New Year’s Eve. I felt compelled to go out on the ice for the stroke of midnight, even though it was like 15 below. So I bundled up and I did, just to see what was out there, causing all this odd urgency in my brain.

As I walked, the stars really popped, and the plain of snow covering the lake was almost blue in the moonlight. It crunched under my boots. The ice shifted sometimes as I moved. If I didn’t know it was frozen for a few feet down, it would’ve been scary. And maybe my heart did jump a little, especially when the thundering was so loud.

I stood out there, and the year changed from a very wonderful 2012 into the unknown of 2013, and the cold was so sharp it made my nose and fingers hurt. A shooting star slid across the dark sky.

Maybe we’re at our best, we humans, when we put ourselves into uncomfortable situations. When we go beyond the place that comes easy, into an unknown. We’re more alert. Edgy even. Pores wide open to the bright stars above, and the cold depths below. We feel more.

I ended up calling Kyle and Jim, and they joined me out on the ice. We hugged and welcomed another year of our lives. As we stood there, admiring the quiet, a pickup drove out onto the lake.

It was a solo driver. He rolled out into the middle of the water, got out, shot off a single bottle rocket, then got back into the truck and returned to wherever he came from. Maybe a warm cabin. Maybe his own comfortable house, where a wife and kids snoozed peacefully.

Was this his own tradition? Or a one-off dare? I’ll never know. But I like to think that the lake called him out there, against his better judgement, to witness something entirely different. A new thing. The space between the usual wheel ruts. Maybe it calls everybody that way sometimes.

Happy New Year. I wish you connection, joyful travels, and a bit of self-imposed discomfort, to help you find the magic in all of it.