Tug of war

I walked the stream, all the time wondering about the thickness of the ice. It seemed sufficient at the edge, less so a foot or two out, and there was none in the middle of the waterway. More than once my careless steps liberated large blocks from their moorings to be drawn away by the flow. Most of the ice was rough-edged, with little elaboration. The weather had been mild and most all of the delicate crystals which had formed several weeks ago were gone. Perhaps a few remained? I walked slowly, as if shopping for a trinket. I stopped. Compared. Judged. And considered.

As the water surged from below, it pressed against the underside of the ice. When the water fell, I could see through thinner spots, that some clung to form a continuous sheet. Most of this retreated into the torrent save a small cadre of tenuous drops. Large ones bulged and elongated under the influence of gravity, eventually giving way. Smaller ones moved nervously, chaotically. When one of these, by chance, met another, the pair would coalesce to form a drop large enough, with mass enough, such that gravity could now win what had been a tug of war with the adhesive forces of unknowable numbers of hydrogen bonds. Each would then dissolve into the darkness. Numbers dwindling, like so many candles, extinguished by a strengthening breeze. With the next surge, however, another cohort would appear to dance briefly and then disappear.


33 thoughts on “Tug of war

  1. A beautiful post, D. The image is exquisite. I’ve been wanting to let you know that I’ve been assisting Lemony with her blogs and comments, and various communications. She has been extremely private about her situation, although George was encouraging for a long time to “out” herself. She has a neurological condition, which has as one of its effects a progressive form of aphasia. Her comprehension is intact; she just needs help finding and organizing her words. –Ezrabeth (but I go by “Ezra”).

    • Thank you Ezra, very much. Because of the very public nature of this venue (and because I cannot find the email in which Lemony wrote with the news of George) I will reply in brief. I have been wondering, for quite some time, about Lemony. She had, on a couple of occasions, and long ago now, made reference to the aphasia. Thank you again for reaching out. Please do let Lemony know that she is, and has been, in our thoughts

    • That has been the intent. I just wrote, in another comment response, that my training was as a technical writer. I do enjoy the new genre in which I operate. It’s fun, and challenging, to discuss subjects I find interesting in such a way that others will find them interesting as well.

  2. The drops you speak of remind me of those that froze in place in the image I shared a while back. While looking at them, elsewhere there were drops or bubbles bouncing around beneath the ice. Joining to make larger bubbles, bouncing off one another and moving along in a chaotically orderly fashion, disappearing as they exited from beneath the ice or becoming trapped and eventually freezing.
    The thickness of ice can be quite misleading, can’t it?

    • As to your last observation – YES. I always am sure to listen very, very, carefully as I walk along shelf-ice. I didn’t have a chance to mention it in any of my recent posts but, as I walked the edge of the pond the other day my right leg (to the hip) went through the ice, into the drink, and then deeply into the mud below. That put a quick end to that particular photo expedition! I was wearing my chore boots and not my waders – a tough (and very cold) lesson learned.

      • For years I would not even walk on the ice at any time. In 1958, at the age of ten, my family moved into a new home across the street from a lake. First morning I ran across the street to meet the neighbor kids. We went out on the lake and I promptly fell through the ice-totally submerged, I could see the bottom of the ice-and bobbed beneath the surface for a moment before somehow resurfacing in the same hole I fell through. It took another 40 years before I would confidently walk on a frozen lake although still with some trepidation. Now even walking on a stream where I might go through as you did worries my mind and interferes with my concentration on the job to be done.
        My supposedly high quality NEOS still leak like a sieve. I am now bringing my hip boots on trips. Not quite as protective as chest waders, but much better.

        • I don’t like to read stories like that. You were lucky. Contrary to what my story may have lead you to believe, I have a very healthy respect for the load-capacity of sheet ice. When Joanna and I were in graduate school, we traveled across town to Oneida Lake one winter afternoon. Much to our surprise there were lots and lots of folks out on the lake … just walking around. There were people skating, and cross-country skiing, and ice-fishing, and riding about on snowmobiles and four wheelers. It was like there was a little town out on the lake …. out on the lake! Even though evidence of the holding capacity of the ice was right before us, I can remember that it took us quite a few moments to venture forth. And, even when we did we still didn’t feel all that comfortable. To this day I can still remember feeling a sense of relief when we reached truly solid ground.

          • I don’t like having it as a life lesson very much. I have always had a hard time seeing trucks out there and, of course, the lakes that are covered with fishing shacks with a car or truck next to them. I can’t remember the specifics, but there is at least one “road” in Alaska that has semis traveling across the ice during their long deep freeze.

    • Thank you so much Lynn for the comment. I don’t think of myself as much of a writer and have always hesitated to compose in this ‘way.’ Having said that, I get lots of enjoyment from doing so (although, that’s not to say that pressing the ‘publish’ button here at WordPress doesn’t always make me just a wee bit uncomfortable and (I hesitate to say) embarrassed) … and I’m glad you’ve enjoyed what I’ve written. I will take your good opinion as motivation to keep at that aspect of my work.

  3. It’s good to find you back in your icy haunts, almost as if the long move had never taken place since you brought us ice pattern pictures last winter.

    A few days ago I was recording algae patterns in a creek and suddenly got that cold and wet feeling in my left boot. Seems that when I was pushing my way through underbrush on the creek bank something sharp had cut a gash in the rubber. This makes two damaged lefts in a row, so the right I retained from the last pair can’t come to the rescue. Now I’m on a quest for a bicycle tire tube repair kit with a patch long enough to cover the latest slit.

  4. A beautiful fragment of ice lace … so pretty❄️This is such a well written piece and I can almost feel the cadence of your voice, the beautiful blend of science and poetic nature💕

    • I am so delighted you think so Seonaid. You and I both know my not-so-wonderful opinion of my own work. To have you suggest that I’ve done well is praise indeed. Really. Thank you so much. D (PS: By the way, how are you accessing the icons you’ve been using?)

    • Thanks so much Charlie. I don’t think of myself as a writer … by any means. I certainly enjoy the writing, and never thought it might be possible that others would like it (even a wee bit) as well. Thanks for your support. D

  5. Your eye is as keen as your imagination. The prose is a joy and you use words in interesting ways. You ideas are thoughtful, and these posts are instructive. Thank you.

  6. I never had imagined that a piece containing the words “cohort” and “hydrogen bonds” could be so poetic. Then, I remembered Loren Eiseley. The phenomenon’s interesting, and you’ve captured it beautifully. You’ve also evoked another childhood memory. Eating icicles was fun, but it was equally enjoyable to find thin sheets of ice, pop them in our mouths, and break them like the best ribbon candy with our tongues.

    Now, I have to go look at that lenticular cloud I see in your sidebar.

    • You mention Eiseley in the same paragraph that you mention my writing! I am pleased indeed. I too remember eating all sorts of crystalline forms of water … when it was safe to do so, back in the day when our skies were not so filled with particulates. I hope you enjoyed the lenticular cloud … I did. Thanks Linda.

    • I’m not that brave tchistorygal … the water isn’t usually more than knee-deep in these little streams … and I wear chest-waders. Having said that, I had one leg fall through the ice on our pond the other day (had boots on without the waders) and had my boot fill with very-ice-cold water! And, Joanna can always be counted on to keep good track of me.

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