Humiliating, Harrowing, Humbling and Helpful

Adopting a Beginner’s Mind in play and work

B. Lorraine Smith
7 min readJan 23


The rink after most of the hockey players had left. When I was on that ice, working my little drills along the boards, there were dozens more players. Big, fast, mostly male. I did my little drills anyway.

I’m learning to skate. It’s hard. I hadn’t skated as an adult (assuming I am an adult) until a little over a week ago. I wasn’t much of a skater as a kid. My siblings played hockey. Many of my friends figure-skated. I just kind of toodled around on skates at our local outdoor rink learning from my friends, back in the days when Toronto had cold enough winters to maintain informal skating rinks in neighbourhood parks. Then I grew up and never skated.

Never, that is, until my friend Jane — an avid skater and knower of all things local rinks here in Montreal — invited me to skate the other day. It seemed an innocent enough invitation.

“Do you want to go skating?”

“Hm. Could do. I don’t have skates though…”

“They rent them at the rink on Mount Royal. We could go there.”


This would be a classic example of me not thinking something through because it intuitively seems like a great idea. I like being outside and hanging with my friend Jane. Why not go skating?

Well, one reason is that being crappy at something I’m doing for fun isn’t very fun.

There are a million other reasons not to go skating. Feet get cold. It’s a logistical kerfuffle to get to a rink. Rink schedules are subject to change based on weather conditions. Also, there are a lot of hockey players who take up space on the rink (we’ll come back to them in a moment).

But there are also a lot of reasons to do it.

It’s a very community-oriented activity here. Many neighbourhoods have well-maintained outdoor rinks where people of all ages and skill levels are encouraged to come out, with regularly updated info by the city. It’s impressive, I must say. (Merci, Bleu Blanc Bouge!)

It can be a very peaceful activity. Slidey. Glidey. Friends meet up to skate and chat the way people in other cultures might meet up at the beach or the park.

Plus, as a distance runner I’m always on the lookout for new ways to improve my strength and endurance. With visions of Cindy Klassen in mind I find myself thinking, Surely I could be a



B. Lorraine Smith

Recovering ESG "expert"; yarn spinner; distance runner; magical realist. Sensing a path to an economy serving life. also at