Sunday, April 1, 2012

The First Ice

[The Third November: January]
January 10, 2012

[Despite some obvious signs of spring outside my window
as I post this blog entry, our winter narrative continues,
with Part 3 of a 4-part retrospective]

 The first ice is especially interesting and perfect,
being hard, dark, and transparent,
and affords the best opportunity that ever offers
for examining the bottom where it is shallow;
for you can lie at your length on ice only an inch thick,
like a skater insect on the surface of the water,
and study the bottom at your leisure…
But the ice itself is the object of most interest,
though you must improve the earliest opportunity to study it.
      HDT Walden, “House-Warming”

Quite some time after Christmas, Moreau Lake finally froze over.
Solid from end to end.
Thick enough to walk on.
Well, there was that one time, weeks earlier, on a dreary cloudy January day, when Jackie and I ventured onto the brand new ice that was beginning to form around the edges.

It was thin, and cracked a bit under our weight, but it was also very clear.
A perfect window for studying the pebbly bottom of the lake.  We gazed fascinated at little scenes below our feet. We wondered how all the different textures got into the ice.

Of course we kept within a yard of the shoreline, since the middle of the lake was wide open, and this ice was merely a thin shelf.

As we rounded the lake, we checked the frozen shallows of Bubble Bay,
but there was not quite the display as in previous years. (click here to see it in all its glory) 
Instead, we found a frozen trail, formed before the ice fully set.
What hardy creature could have walked here?

Our answer came as we followed this trail to the open water
by the boat-dock.

There sat the trail-maker, brushing his face in the weak winter sunlight.

Weeks after that day, the right combination of cold air and clear nights finally sealed up the lake for good. The park staff tests the ice for thickness before allowing anyone out there, and fishermen lost no time putting out their tip-ups.

Jackie and I returned on a beautiful sunny day. The air was crisp, the ice was free of snow (since we really haven’t gotten any), and the lake was singing songs. “Whooping,” Thoreau called it.
Another friend of ours describes it as “the Call of the Ice Whales.”

My friend, who grew up along Lake Michigan, strode out confidently onto the lake.
I, who grew up in more temperate Pennsylvania, shuffled along, ready to bolt for shore at any moment.

We strolled down the middle of the lake.
Along the way, the ice would suddenly snap !
and spiraling cracks would race beneath my quaking boots.
It was only the ice flexing, as the sun heated it up. Whooooop.

Out in the deepest part of the lake, some ice fishermen were soaking up the sun -- er, fishing.

Hardy souls, they -- who know how tasty perch can be.

We don’t usually see clear open ice like this.
Typically, within days of freeze-up, the snows come thickly,
and lay down layer upon layer of white stuff. 
This year, people were ice-skating up and down the length of the lake. Henry would have loved it.

The land was still bare of snow --  as bare and brown as the First November.  So one might as well play on the ice!

1 comment:

  1. Yes, didn't we have fun! Your photo of bubbly ice is wonderful, looks like a bunch of ice tadpoles.