The Power of Calm

The calm days stand out around here, if for no other reason than the profound silence that descends. Straining to hear the pulse of the water, like listening for a heartbeat late at night, not even a gentle ripple laps the shore.

Shadows creep northward and the lowering sun angles through the first icy haze of the season, creating sun dogs, which are kind of like rainbows but much, much colder.

Overnight, a crystalline sheet overspreads the still water, covering most of the surface but not quite all.

A morning breeze picks at the edges, flexing the ice sheet and pushing down with the weight of wind-driven ripples. Water works its way through weak spots, breaking away angular shards that clank like glass as they collide.

A frigid night gives way to a sunny Indian Summer day with just enough warmth and water for one last boat ride around the lake. It’s a bit stiff in spots, especially the shady coves where the ice is several days old. The otters have networks of holes they keep open, punching through the ice with their heads.

Each night for a week, cold stillness settles in and broken shards are absorbed by the growing sheet and water freezes as it flows over the expanding edge.

Each night the existing ice thickens and spreads, pushing the last open water to places where the morning breeze can not stir it, and eventually these spots, too, are covered over.

The ice sings now, at night when the temperature drops and the sheet expands, but also in the afternoons when the sun has done what it can and it sags under its own weight. Soon the sounds will be muffled by snow, followed by the quiet dark of winter and straining to hear the pulse of the water, like a heartbeat late at night.

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Categories: nature, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

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17 thoughts on “The Power of Calm

  1. Woolybugah

    Beautifilly said Mr Quill. It’s nice to be reminded of the beauty in the natural world many of us ignore in the rush to get from one place to another.

    • Thank you, Wooly. I was thinking of you the other day as I was loading up beer bottles from the last part of the season. The bottles from that Pipeline Porter were among the 700+ dead soldiers. I never thanked you properly for the treat — thanks! While waiting for my redemption receipt, I was browsing the selection at Brewfest Beverage and there, on the top shelf, was a rack of Pipeline Porter! They had another variety by the same brewer, too.

      You are a trend setter, sir.

  2. Gorgeous photos, as always.

  3. Enjoyed the fine ice report!

  4. I always love your ice pictures. Sadly , I live too far south for anything local to freeze. I loved to go ice fishing back in the day.

    • Thanks, man. I know some people who would be just fine if nothing ever froze up here again, or maybe just the lakes for ice fishing. I haven’t ice fished since I lived on Lake Champlain. I never had a nice shanty. I was a bucket sitter, which seriously reduced my time on the ice.

  5. Buggyd

    Aah, lovely to read and to look at. We saw a sun dog Sunday afternoon but I’ve never gotten as good a photo of one as you have. Your mention of the shards tinkling at the edge of the ice reminds me of a Nature Company CD I once had of sounds of Glacier Bay, Alaska. Ice is nice :) (if you don’t have to drive on it)

    • And to think that you got to see the ice for yourself this weekend! The white snow became dark slush with some rain this afternoon. Maybe it will last?

      That was me, tinkling at the edge; this ice clanked, and you’re the only person I know who would have a CD of the sounds of Glacier Bay …

  6. We got a bit of ice on the edges of ponds last night, more tonight then back up into the 50s. I’m amazed at how much you have already. If we get a regular winter this season, the river below me will freeze over. I’ve never understood how flowing water can freeze.

    • The flows stay open longer, but once the process starts the ice just grows and grows. I think we’re a little early this year but it’s from lack of wind more than unusual cold, I think, but it’s not thick enough to support much more than a couple of ducks right now.

  7. Great descriptive piece Quill. I love the photos that accompany your narrative.

  8. I’m looking forward to the oncoming winter, but your pictures made my teeth chatter! You also reminded me of how amazing H20 is. Is there another molecule that can be so beautiful in all three phases?

  9. Hearing a steelheader chatter their teeth at a little cold makes me smile! I am looking forward to more ice and frost to photograph, but only as long as I hav a nice warm HQ to come back to.

    (Everyone who hasn’t already done so should check out Angela’s blog “All Signs Point to the Good Life”. I’ve got it bookmarked for poking around in this winter.)

  10. Quill, poetry as usual. Very much enjoyed that one. I went out with my son last winter while in New Hampshire to listen to the singing of the ice. Eerie and magical.

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