On The Ice

Lily pad under ice, Christmas day, 2010

This image is from last year. We (D, his father and stepmother, and my brother) hired a well-furnished cabin beside a pond, in the backwoods of Pennsylvania. On Christmas day we walked out onto the middle of the pond. I’d never done that before, walked on solid ice. How risky and enlivening an experience.

You are forced to walk slowly, to look at the strange ground beneath you, down into the layers of suspended water root and bubbles. Hush your white pluming breath to listen for the sound of cracking. There is always a part of the pond cracking a little at the tension. Yet you keep progressing, desiring to see how far out you can make it. The air is so clear and crisp and still. Through the saplings at the shore you can see the chimney of the cabin, the grey smoke skeining upwards. Your eye follows it. Snow coming soon.

And when you make it back, you take a hot chocolate to the fire, and give yourself time to reflect. It takes longer to process what you did, the foolishness and bravery of it, and what you found out there on the ice.



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4 responses to “On The Ice

  1. Having lived in Minnesota for a decade, I so get this. I felt like I was right there with you, hot chocolate at the end and all.

    I remember I used to see fathers walking out on the lake (early in the season) with children. Holding hands. And I would think, “Does that child’s mother know you’re doing this?” But yes, of course, she likely knows. It’s the way of life. The way that, if you’re born and raised there, is the normal course of life in winter.

    Love that photo, too. Beautiful and ominous. Who knows what’s beneath that surface.

    • It’s funny you mentioned fathers – I think the reason we felt it was safe(ish) to go out was because D’s father (another D) grew up in New Hampshire, and could ‘read’ the ice – he told us it was a good thickness, so we went out. I would probably not have gone without his reassurances.

  2. This is foreign to me, having lived almost my whole life in the desert. But I feel I was there, from your description. “. . . the grey smoke, skeining upwards.”

    Lovely writing.

    • Thank you, Averil. I’d never been anywhere so cold as the Eastern United states in winter. It was magical. But I love the desert too – the ones I’ve been to, in New Mexico and outback New South Wales, both had such stark beauty to them.

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