Friday, March 10, 2006

Frozen Stiff

"What's going on?" is purely rhetorical in this part of the world; we are a small village, in a very big country whose climate can kill you. Out strolling--with crampons--in the local park beside the St. Lawrence as winter wound down, I was the only soul on the face of the earth, marvelling at the breathtaking silence. Bells of solid ice swung from the tips of the weeping willows. The river was frozen right across to the USA, less than 1km away, all motion suspended.

And then I heard it: the ice was singing. There was a soft background hum, like the echoes of a choir in the nave of a cathedral. From time to time came another sound like a rifle shot as distant floes buckled; there were crunchings, and what I took at first to be a dog barking. A crack flew by me along the river bank, with the scouring sound of a jet flying overhead. On another occasion I'd followed what I took to be a flock of small birds twittering, only to find a fringe of delicate ice plates blown by the wind into the edge of a patch of open water.

Yesterday the river was emitting deep, hollow coughs from far down below the ice; it was clearing its throat for the big thaw. Today the temperature soared to 10*C and everything started running; pools of water everywhere, the official start of Mud Season. Time to drag the ice-fishing huts back, and drive those pickup trucks to safety off the ice.

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