Last week, I just couldn’t write. I sat down every morning and wrote some words, but they all felt hollow. On Friday, I finally gave up. What did it matter anyway, I thought darkly. We are truly in the gray days of winter–lingering low clouds a uniform pale gray, errant snow flurries that flutter and disappear, a constant cold wind, highs several degrees above freezing. Winter has never been easy, but this winter is a bit harder than normal. I knew it back in fall and tried to prepare myself for the inevitability of it, but there’s no getting around it. We are now in the midst of the darkest winter in years.
What to do but walk? I never stop walking. However, walking changes this deep in winter, especially when there is no snow. The leaf litter becomes dull and listless, and it becomes harder to see something beautiful that moves you. The discoveries are few and far between, and you have to be content with them. A quick glance of an owl above you. A wriggling salamander in a puddle under a thin layer of ice. You have to rely on your inner landscape to pull you through, and sometimes you don’t have the strength for that. It’s then that I just keep on walking, focusing on the motion of one leg after another. The muscle memory pushes you forward.
Novelty is something humans rely on to keep going, even small new things. In this pandemic winter, novelty is scarce. One of the places where I look for newness and change is the river. Every day the river, a tidal estuary, changes, and it also changes throughout the day with the tides. Since it’s gotten colder, I’ve been watching the ice forming on it. One day when it just turned colder, you could see the waves coming into shore were thicker somehow–you could tell that with the cold the water was slowing down. A day or two after, you could hear it: the ice shards were forming, rattling around as the water moved, like a crystal chandelier was caught in the tide. And then one afternoon, it had frozen over as the tide went out, leaving door-sized panels of thick clear ice, somehow glazing into perfectly flat planes, instead of gripping the rocks below. I’m sure there’s a good explanation for why this happens, but I was content to be astounded by the magic of it.
This ice pulled me out of my listless torpor. I bent down and began to see all the various patterns in the layers–some were lines, some were circles, some were arrows, and in some places it was vaguely clear. My son was entranced by stomping on it, which is one of his favorite winter activities. The sound is deafening, and the breaking of ice is extremely satisfying. I joined him in this at his behest, and we crunched the ice together. We picked up slabs of thin, perfectly clear ice and crashed it down on other panels of ice, the slab then breaking into tiny pieces and skittering out towards the water which lurked far out under the ice, as it was low tide. It was a short fifteen minutes of deep sensory enjoyment: crashing sounds, breaking ice, different shapes. A novelty.
I don’t watch much TV, but I am going to admit that sometimes I zone out on the Netflix show Ancient Aliens, which never fails to both interest me with its subject matter and crack me up with its campy tone. Giorgio Tsoukalos is my favorite, but who doesn’t appreciate Erich von Däniken? Even Elizabeth Kolbert gives him a nod in this article about ‘Oumuamua. I’ve been seeing and reading so many articles on alien life. I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants to get lost in these subjects.
Monitoring Weather at the End of the World – these photographs are amazing, and the story of this woman alone in this desolate place fascinates me.
Weather Station – I really loved this woman’s music and mission.
I might go down to writing every other week, so don’t worry about me. I’m just looking for something new…