I realized that I had an entire unscheduled day in front of me at the exact moment that the final icicle dripped itself to oblivion, broke off my roof and crashed to the ground. The icicles this year have been dramatic — fully framing my bedroom windows for the past three months.
If I had the mind of a scientist, I could tell you why the appearance of the ice changed daily; why sometimes it was clear as glass and other times it was foggy and filled with tiny bubbles; why individual icicles spread and merged with others to form ice barriers rather than ice picket fences.
But I’m not a scientist and as I studied the icicles I saw a row of metaphors instead. In winter’s darkest days I looked through the steely gray columns and saw prison bars —reminding me of icy looks, cold receptions and future ice dam disasters. On bright days the sparkling columns became the gates of my glorious ice palace; refracting the sun’s light and bathing my room with hope and glittery cheer.
I’m one of the lucky ones — the ice that stretched 10 feet from my roof toward the ground did not back up into the house. Now I’m watching the thick block of ice on the roof melt and thinking about global warming and the receding glaciers in Switzerland. All this ice and snow may also cause flooding in the Red River Valley again this year. The flooding will occur because we got more snow than usual although Pat Robertson might take the opportunity to blame the folks of Western Minnesota for causing the flood with some behavior that made God mad (they can form a damnation support club with the people of Haiti). Regardless of the cause — bad behavior or too much snow — if the flood does come, we might consider the virtues of an ark.
The ark might be a big boat packed with animals or, through my rose colored glasses and the windows of my ice castle; I see the ark as the floating safety net. Perhaps you want your ark to be built by a rugged individualist such as Noah, but I want my modern-day ark to be built by experienced engineers, managed by visionaries and interpreted by artists. I’m talking about statewide infrastructure to protect our most vulnerable and move us forward. Our ark is sprouting leaks and our captain is not patching the holes. The seas are rough; if we don’t keep the big boat floating we are going to have a heck of a time rebuilding it later on. The bucket brigade works for only so long.
Maybe a slow melt will subvert the flood and at this moment I can check off ice dams from my worry list. The massive chunk of ice that hurled down from my roof broke a window and took down half a gutter but it missed all living creatures and lies in testament to a dodged disaster on my front yard. I studied the shattered glass and table-size ice plate and then went for a walk — grateful for visible patches of brown grass and the plowed path around the lake. Later, I stopped by a museum, happy for the reasonable admission fee, and zipped into a library relieved that the doors were open. The ark still floats but if we don’t start reinvesting in it, one of these days it won’t have the support system and infrastructure to get us safely to the distant shore. We’ll find ourselves bobbing aimlessly in the water — going nowhere.
Jocelyn Hale is executive director of The Loft Literary Center. She lives in Fulton.