Sunday Morning ~ Thin Ice
Gomo likagamuka, zako umadyeratu. ~ If the riverbank caves in, you eat your food as fast as you can.
~ Chewa proverb
February 16, 2020
The days are getting longer but the temperature is colder and the heath at the end of my road is finally frozen over. It was below zero yesterday but bright and sunny. I love these winter days with cold squeaky snow underfoot and bright sun on my face. I walked with a friend and her dog through the woods until the heath opened in front of us. She’d not been there before and I told her how lovely it was to walk out there in the winter when the ice was solid enough. I usually wait until I can see footprints in the snow, not usually brave enough to be the first one out there. But I felt a little more confident with someone else along so we tentatively took a few steps on the snow covered ice. We bounced a little, then jumped. It seemed solid underfoot so we continued, tentatively at first, then confidently taking in the surroundings. It was gorgeous, the only time of year we can get that particular perspective, walking out on the open heath. We checked out animal prints and tried to decipher which critters had been there before us. With sun on our faces and a happy dog chasing sticks it was a perfect Saturday afternoon winter walk. We reminded each other of how lucky we are to live here, how healthy it was to get out and appreciate how beautiful our winter world is. We talked politics and lamented the current state of affairs. We talked about climate change and worried about what will happen if we don’t change our course soon. It’s February and we are just now walking on the ice. I’m usually out there by Christmas. We discussed the actions we could take, were taking, how to keep ourselves from losing hope. We both enjoy white privilege and recognize that, but we’re both women and have endured our share of discrimination and misogyny. We’re no longer of childbearing age so don’t need to worry about finding a maternity service within driving distance, but both care for and worry about other women. We’re both politically active and independent; can take care of ourselves, cut and stack wood, grow food, care for our children. We’re both healthy and active. We have a lot going for us. We live in a beautiful place, have figured out how to stay warm (enough), have the foresight to plan for the years when we’ll have to moderate our activity and lifestyle. We talked about how we can use our good fortune in life to help others. She knows the outdoors, knows the woods and feels at home there. So do I. The forest calms me and somehow insights about the larger picture can come into view.
We stopped to look at a patch of ice not covered by snow and wondered if it were a spring. My friend took a heavy stick and banged on it until the ice cracked. She showed me how you can measure the thickness this way, looking at how deep the cracks went. Fascinating! I’d never known that. I always figured if there were footprints bigger than mine out there, it was safe enough for me! But this opened up a new path to independence and safety. We tried to recall the ice safety chart: how thick ice has to be to hold a person (3 inches), a car (7 inches), a truck (10 inches). The heath is untouched by heavy machines so we couldn’t judge safety by what was sitting on it. The heath is open and wild and beautiful. Nothing but coyote prints…how much does a coyote weigh, I wondered? The cracks in the ice produced by the stick looked to be at least three inches so, reassured, we moved on in the sunlight enjoying the fresh cold air. I was happy. I felt safe. Less than ten steps later I crashed through the ice up to my hip, stopping there only because of the size of the hole my leg made. My butt hit the edge of the ice and my knee hit a submerged log that stopped me from going deeper. There was no warning, no cracking sound, no slow sinking into a boggy spot. This was a sudden plunge and could have been comical if it weren’t so cold. The ice around me was strong enough to haul myself out, thank God, and I stood soaking near the rim, made sure I could walk, retraced my steps, and turned toward home. Well, so much for our walk. That was over. Maybe the submerged log had weakened the ice there, warmed the water or something. We mused about the physics as I slowly walked my bruised butt and knee the two miles home.
Walking back with water sloshing in my boot we thought of analogies for what just happened. We related it to raising teenagers or life in general. Just when you feel you’ve got things under control: caught up on your bills, fixed the car, registered people to vote–– the ice can give out underneath you. I thought of how grateful I was to be walking with someone out there, grateful for my old boots that despite being filled with water, keep my feet warm, grateful that soup was waiting on the stove, that warm dry clothes were just upstairs, that my new water heater can fill my tub for a long hot soak.One step can change everything, but then you have no choice but to deal with it, eat fast, learn from it, teach others, hope they listen, and move on.
Love to all,