Ice and Fog and Lightning

Is it still Christmas?  Like jumping off a cliff, it’s not the fall that gets you.  It’s the sudden stop.  Having made the supremely wise (lucky) decision to stay put for what was a wonderful ice storm (as long as the power stays on and every surface in the house is deep with baked goods).

Ten days ago, neighbors gathering for a solstice potluck vaguely resembled an alpine team crossing a glacier with crockpots and plates of banana bread.  The party’s usually around a fire in the snow.  This year, indoors, we were invited to write on slips of paper either things we hoped for in the new year or things we wished to release from the past year, then burn the paper in a candle’s flame and let the ashes fall into a dish.  Not sure I follow the logic, but the kids seemed to get a kick out of it.

A young colleague, home in Vermont from DC for the holidays, texted photos and on-the-scene reports of the storm around the country.  I thought, “Gee, doesn’t he remember the ’98 storm?” then realized, “Oh.  He was nine.”

The thermometer floated between 27 and 35.  Snow fog and lightning as a warm air mass passed over cooler air below.

That was a week ago.  Subsequent layers of precipitation, falling at various temperatures have left us with a stratigraphic history of December 2013.  This year, we need 32 words for snow.  If you have holiday blues or cabin fever or a desire to work off butter cookies or your relatives drive you crazy, chopping ice is therapeutic, useful and increases safety of public spaces.

Between sleet storms brilliant sun turned the south end of the city into an approximated Narnia.  I’ve had six opportunities to skate on the old canal, phragmities and cattails crystal with ice, brilliant air, piercing light.

I skate, north and south, wind at my face, wind at my back.  Under lead skies, driving snow.  At dusk, red and green traffic lights rise along Battery Street, a sight only seen from the ice.  Late at night with the city’s lights reflecting off low clouds.  I wonder if Neddy Merrill skated in winter, then turn and skate the other way.

Sunday, a warm breeze blew and ice plunged from roofs all over town.  Our new used car was crushed by half a ton that fell from the neighbor’s house.  My New Year’s vigil is waiting for the insurance adjuster.

Now we’re in the single digits and December’s precipitation is mottled gray; hard and slick as marble.  Lightning, fog, ice, crushed cars, light, darkness and which of these symbols mean anything?

I vote for the last one, the mineral-hard cake of snow and ice and mud and salt and grit.  Something from the old year we’ll carry into the new and slowly let it go.  Just in time for spring.

Happy New Year.

© Mark Floegel, 2013

One Comment

  1. Elizabeth Zander
    Posted 1/3/2014 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    New Year Greetings to thank you for writing, for sharing your thoughts and observations!

    From a reader living in Oregon a few miles from the beautiful Pacific, in which starfish are dying in unprecedented numbers, on the edge of the decimated Tillamook State Forest in which the last protest and tree-sit was in October, 2001, when Tre Arrow was made to fall from a giant Hemlock.

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