Skip to main content

I drove to the grocery the other night and there, near checkout, saw a freezer case with the sign, “Artisan Ice Cubes,” a bold new step in our march toward Preposterosity. I asked the checkout guy if maybe the sign meant to say “Artesian” and he wasn’t interested. Word usage is not his responsibility. To me, artisanal ice is in the same category as organic non-GMO ice cubes. I’m a Minnesotan and I appreciate the beauty of frost and snow but an ice cube is an ice cube.

Minneapolis Winter Night

I drove home and saw a man and a woman alone together on a neighborhood ice rink, skating as a pair, side by side, arms crossed, and I slowed down to watch. He swung in front of her and turned, skating backward, holding her by one hand as she lifted her back leg and struck a pose, then they turned in a wide arc, paired up again, and did a figure eight. They were in their sixties, no longer sylphlike, and this public display of artisanal skating was very romantic. Made me think of bell-bottoms in the Seventies and Elvis’s muttonchops.

This is the spirit that draws people to the opera. We live in the Age of Numb Disbelief, but the opera is one place where the heart speaks and passion rules and Aida descends into the tomb with her lover, who has been sentenced to death; she cannot live without him so she must perish with him. Meanwhile, they sing a gorgeous long duet that if you leave early to avoid traffic, you are missing the whole point.

The full frontal embrace of the woman you love — let’s face it — can make a man forget about Ukraine and obstruction of justice.

I come from a family of Calvinists, my wife from a family of violinists. Twenty-five years ago, she and I were living together while my divorce went through and I brought her out to Minnesota to meet my elderly parents, I the scapegrace son bringing my illicit lover, and she, whose family are huggers, walked up to my mother and threw her arms around her neck and held her close and then did the same to my father, and that was that, they loved her from that moment on. Rational discussion wouldn’t have accomplished what she did with her own warm heart. When I came home from the artisanal ice cubes, she did something similar to me and, old as I am and slow afoot, it was thrilling. The full frontal embrace of the woman you love — let’s face it — can make a man forget about Ukraine and obstruction of justice.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

The impeachment of Bill Clinton was so much more appealing than what we’re seeing now. It involved temptations of the flesh and who hasn’t been there? What we have here is a drug deal. A bundle of cash for a load of OxyContin. The Clinton impeachment had possibilities as a movie musical. This one? I don’t think so.

So when I got home (where we have our own ice cube maker, which is purely mechanical, not artisanal) and the woman embraced me and held on, it put the U.S. Senate entirely out of mind and made me want to go get my skates (which I do not have) and take her to an ice rink and do some figures in the dark. I’m a Minnesotan. Wrestling with girls in the snow was my earliest erotic experience. I was nine and “erotic” was not in my vocabulary but I knew that I was tangling with a mystery that would only get more and more interesting.

This is where the word “artisan” truly belongs, with matters of the heart, not with solid water. Every romantic engagement is a work of art and craft, especially a long and happy marriage. We walk into a room to find the other and we gracefully engage. The verbal back-and-forth has a cadence and music that is unique to us. We have our private laugh lines. I stand behind her as she makes a salad and put my hands on her shoulders, my two thumbs pressing on either side of her spine, and she says, “Lower,” and sighs with pleasure.

I tell her about the artisan ice cubes at the grocery and it’s of no interest to her, she is engaged with her lover’s hands on her back. I’m an old man but I am an artisan when it comes to her shoulders. Now my job is to convince her to fly away with me to England in April when daisies pied and violets blue paint the meadows with delight. I could use a delightful meadow at this point.


Garrison Keillor

Reposted with permission from Prairie Home Productions