Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Ice

100 Years of Solitude begins thusly:

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."

When I leave GR, I will remember the ice.

I grew up in a mountain town next to a lake, albeit a salty one, so I thought that moving to another snowy town with lake effect snow wouldn't be that huge of a transition. But because the mountain town I'm from also doubles as desert, the snow melts. It dries. The sidewalks if left unshoveled eventually are melted of their snow and returned to their chalky brightness.

Not so here. This winter, especially February, has gone on record as having the most snowfall ever. If it had been last year, when the temperatures all winter never rose above freezing, there would be snow up to our windows. But this year, there have been a couple of thaws. This is great when it's happening. Whole roads turn to rivers, the iciles fall and stab the ground, you can exhale and inhale outside.

But it never stays above freezing for more than 6 hours. At night, all that melt turns to ice. The streets are black with it. The gutters are puddled with it. People who haven't shoveled now have frozen slush, impossible to walk on because the shoe prints of the last person to walk through the slush have solidified--it's like walking on hardened lava. You have to high-step over the foot of ice between the gutter and the curb.

Running has been hard. Some days, even the college by my house which uses enough salt to keep the walks clear at 10 degrees, can't keep the stream of melt turn to a blanket of ice. Some days, it wasn't so much like walking as ice skating. I still ran, a little, slowly but on my tip-toes.

It seems that it might be forty degrees over the next few days. The snow banks are getting smaller. There will still be that sheet of wet ice when I run because it will still freeze overnight. But when I start counting the curb ice in inches rather than feet, when walking up the driveway doesn't require sending Cleo the dog up first so she can pull me by her leash, when I don't wear my wool hat every day, when running through the college is more mud than Dorothy Hamill impersonation, then I will look at the blue skies--here for a record 6 days in a row now, and, even though break is almost a week over, call it spring.

When I came here, I wondered why we had "fall" and "winter" semesters rather than "fall" and "spring." They laughed when I asked. They said, you'll figure it out.
Now I know.
Still. The curb ice? It's down to inches.

Edited to add: Dorothy Hamill implies some sort of graceful ice-venture. That is not me. In the Upper Penisula, there's the verb pank. It means to tap down the snow hard with a flat tool--possibly called a panker. That's more like what I'm doing with the ice except the ice is already hard so my feet don't make much of an impact.


Lisa B. said...

Ice makes winter extra, extra wintry. My father comes from Idaho, which is cold and icy--when we were up there recently for my Grandmother's funeral, I was impressed yet again with how cold a really cold place is, and how much iciness there was. And Michigan is worse, I'm sure. Or is it better? How cool is that, to learn about the funny words the Uplanders use?

Valerie said...

I am certain that when you arrive in AZ you will at times feel heat as you never have either. You have your extremes.

Dr Write said...

I can't believe you run on ice. I feel especially wimpy compared to you. Yesterday it hailed and I stayed inside!!

Molly said...

We are Yoopers, though Uplanders makes us sound more regal and Danish somehow.

I like geographic words like pank. I also like geographic jokes. Next time I see you, remind me to tell you the one about the GR restaurant called Russ's.

Molly said...

Shoot. I just realized I gave away the punchline in that last comment.