The Great Ice Palace, Paris
New Year’s Eve is the most magical time of the year. It is like an exciting trip to Oz where we get to have wild adventures and make wishes to become better people and lead better lives. Like Dorothy however, we wake up from our technicolor dream on the first of the year, hungover and in need of a cold compress, realising that we are still in Kansas and we are still the same people we were the day before. The wizard was a fraud and our wishes were not granted. We have not woken up smarter or braver and our lives are still the same monotone shades of black, white and grey, but if we are lucky we have our friends there.
I chose to use black and white photography for my first post of the year, because while the vibrant technicolor night of sparkle and fireworks is fun and great (and my favourite time of every year), it is easier to see the world more clearly with more truthful eyes when it is viewed in a black and white reality with comforting shades of grey.
One of the things I most enjoy and that makes me feel pure joy is ice skating. I started doing it when I was five and took it pretty seriously during my childhood. I was never naturally gifted at it but it brought me a feeling of freedom, strength and solitary happiness that nothing else has ever brought.
I even won second place in a competition once with a routine I did to ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’, dressed in a blue and white gingham Dorothy dress, with ruby slipper skate covers, and Toto in hand.
Never mind that there were only two people competing in my category, and it was my sister who won the gold medal. I won a silver medal and I had a phenomenal time doing it. Since then ice skating has continued to be a magical activity for me that allows me to escape to Oz and enjoy my self and my joy like nothing else does.
That being said, last time I skated was 5 years ago and I’ve injured a knee pretty badly and almost doubled my body weight since then. When I found out I would be in Paris for the holiday season I was determined to go skate at Le Grand Palais des Glaces (The Great Ice Palace), the largest indoor skating rink in the world, set inside the beautiful and historic glass roofed nave of Le Grand Palais.
The opportunity to ice skate inside this majestic building, was an idea I had romanticised for months, and dreamed about for years.
I took my sister as a surprise because skating was one of the few activities we both shared a love for during our childhood, and I knew it would be a beautiful experience for us to share together. We stood there, inside the marvellous Grand Palais, with our skates tied on our feet and she glided onto the ice in front of me with ease.
I followed her and the moment my blades touched the ice I panicked. I could not remember how to skate. I had lost that control of myself that brought me a feeling of freedom and joy and replaced it with a paralysing fear and distrust.
Instantly, she reached out her hand and held onto mine and led me drifting across the ice. It was not the dream of strength and power I had envisioned, but I did it. We did it! I did it with her and because of her, and that was magical.
This reminded me of the many times that she has held my hand and helped me move along and across the frozen lakes of life. This reminded me that Dorothy did not make it through Oz alone, but with the company of her friends and allies.
It is easy to get blinded by the vibrance of the technicolor world and believe that no achievement is truly achieved unless it is achieved by me alone, and no adventure is truly adventurous unless it is ventured on alone, but nothing truly is accomplished on our own.
Even Le Grand Palais was not built or dreamt up alone, it was created through a collaboration between four architects.
Having people who are there to hold your hand through life is a triumph in and of itself. And we should all consider ourselves lucky to wake up on the first of the year, like Dorothy in a grey and dreary world, surrounded by our friends and loved ones who make life colourful and make our goals worth accomplishing, our dreams worth dreaming, and our wishes worth wishing.