On my bed, I have a grey wool blanket with a herringbone pattern, an orange ticking-striped down comforter, a white cotton blanket and an old Indian cotton blanket. All of these magic elements of my bed were piled and curled around my sleeping body early this morning, in the grey light of the beginnings of sunrise, when I peeked my head out from between pillows decorated with abstract Queen Anne’s Lace, and gazed out that window that I gaze out of each morning.
Yesterday at sunrise, my neighbor’s windows glowed golden in the blue morning light. A beautiful feature of this much snow is that, in those moments before dawn, the scant amounts of light, the photons just drifting through the air from the east, cast a deep cobalt tone to the landscape. Everything is blue and black, and electric light is golden-bronze, held in place for mere moments, each morning.
This morning, however, snow was on the horizon; Icould see it coming in ombre grey folds of clouds up above the horizon, behind the trees. Layers, as if folds of a giant blanket, grew darker grey the further out I looked with my early morning, sleep-weighted eyes. In the air, I could see not light, but snow.
Pulling on two pairs of tights, one wool and one polyester, a wool skirt, a tank top, a wool shirt, a shawl, a vest, jacket and a hat, I took myself ice skating out onto Upper Hadlock Pond. It was very early, not even 7, and there was no one else at the pond. In that early morning moment, when all was very grey-white, no shadows at all because there was no sun, all was silent and amazingly colorful in its simple shades of green, white, grey and black. Mere moments later, an ice fisherman appeared with his sled and buckets, said good morning and that he was surprised we were the only people there, and stomped off across the ice to his favorite fishing spots.
As I skated around, getting my skating legs back (it always takes me a few moments) and skating across a huge rough patch that is the only path to the beautifully clear and smooth skating area, I stopped-and-started my way across, noticing the lumpiness of the ice, getting my skates caught in patches of ice-snow, noticing how the waves had frozen in place, and that bubbles, forced up as those waves froze, had frozen, too, into these strange circles that look like white eyeballs or lilypads floating at the surface.
This photo is from the other day, when the sun was shining…
Onward into the morning quiet went I, paying much attention to where I was going so that I didn’t fall like I did two days ago. In those early moments, all you could hear was the swishing of skates on ice, and occasionally the most magic of sounds, the shifting and cracking of the lake’s surface. As the ice cracks and bends, it makes a deep gurgling noise not unlike the sound wine makes when poured out the neck of the bottle.
The ice sighed today, heavy with the weight of water moving underneath it, over the dam at the other end of the pond. The ice sighed as I skated over it, and tiny cracks formed alongside my feet as I slid over and around it, making curlycues and stripes and curved lines with my steel blades. Sometimes the sighing and cracking spooked me: especially when a crack happened quickly and I watched it form in the blink of an eye next to my feet.
In the eerie stillness of this early morning, when the sky was grey and white, and the trees deep green and bronze, and the ice white, myself and the ice fisherman were black against a stark landscape. Parkman Mountain peeked over the tops of the trees, now completely coated in snow and dotted with the tallest of trees. It was at this moment that the scant snowflakes that started moments before transformed into huge pillow-like flakes that fell with the rapidity of a rainstorm onto myself and the fisherman, my silent companion on the ice. As I skated, snowflakes became caught in my eyelashes and stuck to my lips. The snow fell, fell, fell around me but there was no wind so it drifted, and sank, through the air from sky to pond’s surface. The snowflakes were huge and seemed to be held in the air, as if they were tiny feathers delicately drifting downward toward the center of the Earth.
I stopped skating for a few moments and just listened. One of my favorite things about snowstorms is their silence: you hear nothing. This morning was no exception: I stood on my skates, still, listening to nothing, ears echoing in that silence. I stared into a little finger sized cove on one end of the pond, watching the snow fall, listening to the silent air, noticing how the branches of the pine trees looked like the bronchi of our lungs, watching them catch the snowflakes in their boughs. Caught in the moment, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the place, and not able to look away, became very emotional and breathless.
As the snow continued to fall, and the landscape became more fairy-tale like, and I was imagining all kinds of things happening as they would in faerie stories, and contemplating my life and the many interesting things that have happened and what it all means when one catches yourself in beauty for a moment at 7:30am on a Sunday morning, I began to realize that I could no longer distinguish my skate marks from the cracks in the ice. For a few more minutes, I spun around in large circles, holding myself up on my right foot and then my left, holding my hands above my head in a circle, bending my knees and straightening them, and slowly made my way back across the lake to the crossing point. For one last moment, I stood staring at Parkman Mountain again, now shielded from view by falling silent snow, and crossed the bumpy, crunchy ice back to the mouth of the pond. I skated over the pocked patches of ice, drawing more curls in the snow with my skates, dancing as best I could without falling. For a moment, I sat on the ice, on top of my mittens, taking off my skates and looking out at the landscape that was steadily filling with snow. Once again, silent, no sound save the swish of snowflakes falling around my ears.
I realized that, next time, I need to leave my boots upside down, for, as I was skating, they, too, had filled up with snow.