By any measure it’s been a rough winter in southern New England. There was record snow in January, repeated temperatures in the single digits or below zero, and wind that’s hardly let up since Christmas. But nothing has had it tougher than roadside mailboxes.
Last week the river was a winding road paved in brilliant white where any fool could walk. Now the corridor flows black and waxy, only for a god to tread. Ivory ice cakes bob in the current, lining up at the dam like suicides. They congregate, bump and hesitate until sliding into the watery veil and breaking apart in the curling turbulence.
The planet’s rigid skin is softening. Water runs everywhere. It oozes from the ground, pours from intermittent streams and seeps through culverts. It rips from trees and slides off rooftops leaving every gutter a watercourse. Trickling liquid chants spring as loudly as redwings.
It takes a lot to melt the private ice of a long season. The electric synapses speeding up and down the spine might stay sluggishly locked in their own interior arctic without the moving river and mushy soil. The mind bends hard to the season like peepers thawed from the muck, as natural as skunk cabbage, mosquitoes, or budding maples basking in the sun’s steepening angle.
After weeks with hardly a day approaching freezing, the icicles were thick and growing. Crystal bars across the windows became longer and in some places the thick shafts threatened to pull off the gutters. But there weren’t just long, pointy stalactites. I had frozen waterfalls, luminescent curtains that hung down from the eaves of the house.
I knocked some low ones off by reaching on tip-toe with a garden rake, hearing their satisfying tinkle as they shattered on the ground like glass. I hired a brother firefighter, who at eighteen knows no fear, to climb my porch roof and rip down those within reach. From my open second floor bedroom window I waged war with a broom handle and most of the frozen stilettos fell silently into the snow, only a little of the icy shrapnel hitting me and landing harmlessly on the floor where the pieces quickly faded into puddles. I knocked off a few by tossing a softball at them, though retrieving the ball in deep snow wasn’t easy. It was like a carnival game and when I was done I almost wished for more to throw at even though there were no Kewpie dolls or stuffed animals to win.