January 14, 2014

Some of my favorite memories growing up involve ice. 

There was the winter when layers of ice covered the ground, leaving the grass completely trapped underneath. Starting on the top corner hill of the yard, I took off catty-corner across the lawn on my sled. I intended to stop before the retaining wall, but my heels wouldn't break through the ice. Instead, I kept picking up speed until I sailed over the wall that dropped five feet into the woods. I think I lost my watch as I bounced off a tree. 

I climbed back up the hill with just one slight change. I stabbed a few holes in the ice so I could catch myself on the next run. I flew down the rink until I grabbed the broken spots as my sled flew out from underneath me and into the trees at the edge of the wall. And then I went again, and again. I finally quit when my mom insisted it was too dark to slide.

When that winter of multiple ice storms ended, the driveway provided an ideal site for a geological survey. After each ice storm, dad would throw out ash from the wood stove to provide traction for the cars. Like a scene in a Robert Frost poem, our driveway peeled back to reveal alternating layers of ash and ice. We laughed as we noticed the layers. Dad reflected on his numerous trips into the cold night air to hurl flickering ash on the ice while I remembered the many days of sledding.

Two decades later, whenever an ice storm strikes, my childlike desire to sled comes rushing back. Yet, as an adult, I feel the expectation that I remove the slickness before someone falls. Lacking fresh ash, I instead find ways to make it shatter and slide away.

Playing outside during a recent ice storm, I marveled at the thick layer of ice - a level of ice I do not recall seeing for many years. All the world seemed trapped in it. As novelist Haruki Murakami noted, "Ice contains no future, just the past, sealed away. As if they're alive, everything in the world is sealed up inside, clear and distinct. Ice can preserve all kinds of things that way - cleanly, clearly." 

Perhaps we need ice. Sliding along toward an uncertain future, at least our past remains clear. Perhaps we need something to help us stop, ponder, and reflect.