It’s February and today the temperatures rose above the usual 25 degrees we’ve had this winter to a sultry 40. The ice dams and icicles streamed off rooflines and along gutters so that the sound was almost one of steady rain. Rain just about now would be welcome. At one point this afternoon a wall of ice on the north side of the house crashed down and shattered in front of a basement window. From my study chair I thought a large man had fallen down the stairs. But there were no large men in the house at that time. I circled around the upstairs and downstairs rooms to figure out what had happened, and it wasn’t until later that I leaned past the back door and saw the icy evidence roughly stacked on one side of the porch. As if someone had split the mass apart and then laid the uneven blocks one on top of the other.
The past two days have been sunny, the first sun we’ve seen in weeks, nearly months. And today a buffer zone of grey clouds moved in, creating a warm pocket, something like the coat pocket I'd like to keep my hands in during winter walks. But I have two dogs and hold a leash in each hand, so I’ve resigned myself to warm and, eventually, fur-covered mittens.
I decided to walk the dogs at dusk this evening, as the air was still and laden with wet and the hour was brighter than it had been in ages. Slush and new puddles lined the streets, and since we have no sidewalks, I walked through them, sometimes slipping and sometimes splashing. The dogs were glad to be out, but after negotiating the slush for a while, I decided on one more block and then heading home. Sometimes that one extra block is worth it.
As we came around the corner past the little green house where a neighborhood couple live, I felt startled. And this feeling turned to amazement and then a sense of calm. Over the years the yard had been landscaped in a thoughtful, serene manner, the perennials shaped and set with an artistic sensibility. But something seemed different, almost alive, about the place. In the dim light it took a minute to understand what had been done for such a brilliant and startling effect. Atop the snow-covered shrubs that edged the walkway from the drive to the front door, broken icicles had been arranged in starbursts. And at the end of the walkway, sitting on the steps before the entrance, was the couple. Even the dogs slowed and looked, one pointing. But it wasn’t the couple, rather an ice sculpture, white and otherworldly, portraying them. They appeared quiet and intimate, as if sharing a secret, something whispered, or no, not whispered, but known, simply in the semblance of sitting together.
I stared for what seemed a long time, though it was only moments, and I said something aloud. Now I can’t even remember what. It had to do with surprise. It had to do with the fact that these figures, so perfectly formed, so detailed with natural gesture, were made of ice and snow. In the morning they would be gone, but for now, there they were, leaning into one another, watching another passerby stand in awe.
Ice sculptures - by Lewis Lower