Volume XI, Issue 7 ~ February 13-19, 2003

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Earth Journal

On Ice ~ by Steve Carr

Winter sometimes turns the edges of our lives to ice and transforms the world around us into something wild and beautiful.

Ice bound! What a neat thing to be. It has been years since local rivers and creeks have turned to ice, and it sure has triggered wonderful memories. Those of us who have lived along the Bay since the 1950s remember that it used to freeze up every winter.

In hockey games on the Severn, one goal was under the Route 50 bridge and the other way down in Round Bay. There were bonfires on the South River and many of the side creeks as young and old alike took to the ice.

Oyster boats from every fishing village between Rock Hall and Solomons huddled together for safety at Annapolis City Dock, waiting for the icebreakers to clear a daily path to open water. Heck, I can even remember some numskulls launching their cars from the old Severn Inn boat ramp. Those were the days. And they were pretty darn cold.

I don’t remember the last time I saw the Severn freeze over. The paper says it was 1996, but it seems like much longer. No matter. The ice is back, and boy is it beautiful.

I’ve been trying to spend each sunrise and sunset with my frozen river. The scarlet rays of the sun turn the ice into a wild assortment of oranges and pinks. The odd shapes and ridges on the surface are highlighted by the magical light. It looks like one of those NASA photos showing the surface of Mars or Jupiter.

I live on a high cliff overlooking the Severn. When the ice first formed, I could see the waves slowly rolling beneath the frozen surface as the tide came in. At first I thought I was hallucinating as I watched these giant ripples moving upriver in slow motion. Then I realized that even ice can not stem the natural rhythms of a river.

The other thing that really grabs you about a frozen river is the noise. Walking along the shoreline the other day, I was struck by how muffled everything sounded. The ice deadens the ambient noise of our daily lives — the airplanes overhead and the constant grind of traffic — and a peaceful silence descends. At the same time, a subtle undercurrent of noises comes from the ice, almost like it is a living, breathing creature. It crackles and pops like a giant bowl of Rice Krispies. From the many blowholes upon its irregular surface comes an eerie baritone gurgling that sounds almost like someone exhaling.

Birds don’t know what to make of ice. Ducks and seagulls try to land on it the way they would on water. This provides wonderful comic relief to anyone lucky enough to witness such acrobatic arrivals. They hit the surface with their webbed feet, then pitch forward onto their heads, doing tumbling cartwheels across the ice. Invariably, they quickly stand back up, no worse for wear and with their dignity intact, ruffling their feathers and looking around as if to say, ‘Yeah, sure, I knew that was going to happen.’

Lately, most everyone I meet is complaining about the cold as if it were some unknown invader from a distant world to the north. ‘Boy is it cold,’ has become the standard greeting between friends and strangers alike.

‘It’s called Winter,’ I reply. It sometimes turns the edges of our lives to ice and transforms the world around us into something wild and beautiful. Don’t hide from it. Buy yourself one of those puffy, goose-down jackets and a shiny new pair of ice skates. Some sweet memories are waiting right around the next bend in the river.



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Last updated February 13, 2003 @ 3:13am