Monday, January 11, 2010

Water LIke a Stone...

I have had one of the most glorious weekends just behind me, that ended actually with this Monday being perfect as well (Dreamweaver returns to work tomorrow)...and I am going to approach it backwards, writing about today first, and then in more posts, the events of the convention we just attended.
But I have to start here...our lake is frozen!!! Please understand...Dreamweaver and I live in the south. We have cold weather here, yes, but it is as I have stated before, cold here is balmy and warm compared to other places. I have seen warm winters where we never even broke the freezing mark. This winter has been unusually cold thus far. So when I took MacDhu out for his morning walk in the brisk 25 degree plus windchill, we went up to look at the sea gulls on the lake, as he and I always do. We got to our look out point...and I looked. And then did a double take. And then frankly stared, with my mouth hanging open. The lake was frozen solid, all the way out to the other shore and as far down its great length as the eye could see! This was not some little rime of ice dusting and hugging the lake edge; this was the entire lake locked down under a thick translucent scrim of dark ice! I bolted back to the house, excited as only a thin-skinned southerner could be, burst in our back door, and caught up with Dreamweaver in 0ur studio.

Me: "ThelakeisfrozensolidIneedthecamerawherearethebatteries?????"
Dreamweaver (looking very bemused) "Um, dear, that was all consonants...could I buy a vowel?"
Please imagine the rest of the conversation, me quivering with wound up enthusiasm, Dreamweaver patiently trying to reign me in long enough to get the batteries into the camera. ("Its not going to thaw in the next 15 minutes...") I am grateful that she seems to find me cute!
So, armed with camera and fresh batteries, back out the door I went into the below freezing air. I was joined on my quest by my black and white cat Dickens who had slipped out earlier to go cage cheap cat food from our neighbors. He and I walked back up to the top of the knoll where I take all my lake pictures, and instead of stopping there as usual, I plunged on down the hill. Dickens was deeply concerned by my unexpected behavior. Having swung too wide following me, he came up on the other side of of the wire fence on the neighboring property and was cut off. All he could do was parallel my progress down the steep treacherous slope of broken branches, scrub grass, old roots and autumn leaves, mewing loudly through the fence. As we neared the bottom, he suddenly realized that the end of the fence was attached to the low shed that my neighbor keeps his lawn equipment in and he could jump onto the roof and come down on my side! Oh happy Dickens! So he ran to the bottom and leaped gracefully onto the shed roof...
...which is made of tin. BWA-ang-ANG-ang! He froze, all four legs spread and braced, eyes as round as saucers, and his tail fluffed in a bristle brush! "Mom, help!" was his next startled mewp. I called to him, guiltily suppressing my giggles, and he finally got the nerve up to sidle over to the edge, with the tin vibrating and clattering under his every step. He leaped down, and ran to me, still wide eyed and tail fluffed and we continued the last few feet to the bottom.
It was some place like Chicago, or Fargo, it would have been normal, even boring. But here, where everyone I have spoken with has stated that they have never seen a total lake freeze in their lifetime, it is a remarkable event, something that has not occurred here in the past 50 to 80 years. Wondering what the thickness might be, I snagged a thick log and tossed it onto the ice - no, I did NOT venture out on the ice! I know that is not safe, as I have no experience in gauging the thickness of ice! - but I thought that the log might break through a spot, and give me an idea of how thick it was, and a contrast for a photograph. The log hit the ice, bounced and broke into two pieces, spinning away in opposite directions on the ice! Ok-ay! I'm impressed. Whether or not it might bear my weight, it is definitely ICE and not a thin frosting!

I edged around to see more of the ice close to the shore and spotted a leaf, trapped in the ice, frozen in time and place in a moment of pure perfection, and was just in awe. It was as though every vein on the leaf, every variation in the ice stood out in crisp clean lines and shapes...a tiny miracle of form in the bright morning air.

Out on the lake in the center stood the flock of forlorn sea gulls, standing and pacing on the ice, with this huge feeling of "What the &%$# happened here - we can't get to the fish!" in their disgruntled poses. I was equally certain that under the ice beneath them, the fish were going "Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah - you can't get us!" I have a reasonably good camera, but the center of the lake is w-a-y out there, at the extreme end of my zoom lens. Still, I leaned on a tree to brace myself, triangulated through the viewer until I got them in sight and managed to get a fairly reasonable picture of them huddled together, patiently waiting for a thaw.
At this point, getting decidedly colder by the moment and needing to thaw a bit myself, I decided I really ought to head back I took a few more pictures, and began the climb back up the steep hill rising above me. I was picking my way very carefully when Dickens came running up and began to do the twine around my ankles, hover under my every step thing that cats do; "Mom, be whatcha doing...Mom pay attention to me...Mom, watch your step...purr, purr, merowp!" Needless to say, as I was leaning almost prone against the curve of the slope and careful testing every step under the blanket of slippery autumn leaves, I was not amused! "DICKENS! You are gonna get my neck, come here, NO! Not between my..DICKENS!"

My unuttered threat - *If you don't quit this, I am going to play ice bowling for seagulls with you for the bowling ball: meow/squawk! And you can hike back from the center of the lake!* - needless to say, went unfulfilled. Finally he and I got to the top of the hill, fortunately without me landing on my ass or my cat. The break we took half way up did seem to calm him a bit, at any rate.

So, as I write this, even though the temperatures finally rose a little above freezing today for the first time in weeks, the lake remains solid and hard, without the slightest hint of thaw. I am considering taking some bread down and scattering it for the birds if this goes on.
What a beautiful unexpected moment in time - something that I have never seen before in my life, or perhaps even in my parents lifetime! I stood there, in a timeless moment of eternity, that may not come again for me, looking out over the ice and the words of Christina Rossetti came to me:
In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan
Earth stood hard as Iron
Water like a stone...
Snow had fallen,
Snow on snow.
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter
Long ago.How precious are our long-agos...
treasure them while they are present and now,
While they are presence in our lives and hearts.


  1. You absolutely tiggered, love, as you came into the house talking so fast I couldn't understand a thing. You were convinced it would melt instantly and I couldn't find the batteries fast enough! I adore your enthusiasm and joy in life!

  2. I think poor Dickens had an even more exciting morning than you did, LOL! I laughed at his adventure on the icy cold tin roof!

  3. That's awesome. We don't live quite near a decent body of water, either at school or home, and you are very fortunate to have seen that, and have recorded it. I love,Love, LOVE the leaf. The picture of Dickens is quite good too... that spot near his nose makes him look like he's constantly smoking a cigar (to me).

  4. Beautiful post and photos! Inspiring. I saw unnaturally frozen lakes and ponds in NW AR at this same time, even solid ice in river bends there. It was COLD!