February 16, 2003

ICE: Figments and Formations

You have heard about rural places where life moves so slowly that the locals sit around and watch the grass grow. I'm here to tell you that I have experienced the winter counterpart of this inactivity, and of that fact I am not ashamed. For the past two months, I have watched the ice grow and morph in the creek, and it has been a most beautiful, amazing and bewildering hobby. I do not understand what I am seeing and lament that I have missed fleeting opportunities to capture more images to remind me of all the wonders I have walked past.

We've had freezing temperatures and snow on the ground since early December, in an atypically cold and wet winter. It is by far the most 'wintery' year we have spent here on the creek. I have never lived year round so near to the presence of water and ice. This is as close to an Arctic expedition as I ever hope to come.

Image copyright Fred First
I see the creek now from my window as it flows between the house and the barn. So many times in the past weeks I have stood and marvelled at some sunlit ice formation in one part of the stream or another, in sun or shade, only to come back an hour later with my camera to find it altogether changed. The evolution of ice is unpredictable and ephemeral in the way of sunsets. I watch amazed and dumb and know no more of the ice below than the myriad formations in the clouds over my head.

I have seen crystal stalagtites that look every bit as if they were formed from the roof of a limestone cave. And sharp transparent fluted shards like snowflakes forming a visible fringe along the edge of the creek. I have seen the results of 'mock snow' forming six inches deep right along the water's surface in a zone of supersaturated frozen air. A spongy pad of airy creek ice forms on the shoreline even on mornings when it has not snowed a single flake on land the night before. This 'creek snow' eventually covers the entire creek if it stays this cold for long enough. As it grows, this encasement will bulge and lift several inches above the water's surface, as if the creek below has mysteriously dropped from under it. The snow-ice once formed in this way expands and while anchored at both creek banks, the only way to expand is by lifting up in the center, forming a bulging dome that completely obscures the dark waters of the creek below. The noisy riffles are muffled. The cold water burbles in mysterious internal organs, a perpetual visceral stomach-rumbling kind of sound.

Fluted. Filigreed. Lacey. Cancellous. Clear as crystal glass, green as a glacier. Granular and rough over here at the top of this ledge; and just there in the shadow of a rocky bluff a smooth, flat sheet that refects the pale pastel light of a weak winter sun. Ice buttons and balls decorate the drab grasses at creek's edge with bright colorless ornaments. Air bubbles under glass move rodent-like downstream in a warren of liquid and crystal.

Posted by fred1st at February 16, 2003 08:52 AM | TrackBack

That's a stunning photo, Fred

Posted by: Da Goddess at February 19, 2003 02:39 AM

And, an excellent post

Posted by: Da Goddess at February 19, 2003 02:39 AM

I love that picture of ice, with its reflections.
Thoughtful and pretty stuff here, I'll be back....

Posted by: Joan Lansberry at February 19, 2003 09:48 PM

Searching for pictures and information for a textile embroidery project for my college course inspired by snow and ice. Your article is truly inspiring, thankyou so much.
Jackie. West Sussex. UK

Posted by: Jackie at September 25, 2004 07:41 PM

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