I go walking: Ice Jam

water risingOne of the lessons the river teaches is: Don’t assume that your singular perspective captures the whole story.

There I was, revelling in the view of open water from just outside my door, communing with ducks and geese and watching the spring river inching up the slope of the dike, and I totally failed to notice the ice jam.

Here on the north side of the bridge, the river appears to be wide open. But just a short walk to the other side of the bridge reveals that the southern span marks the edge of a sizeable ice jam.

ice jam 3

I’ve lived with prairie rivers all my life– I should know better than to take a spring river at face value. The ice jam is a reminder not to make assumptions based on the view before me– a reminder that, just around the curve of the river, the world might be quite a different place.

For all I know the ice jam may be gone tomorrow. At some point, the warming air will soften the massive slab of ice that is wedged against the bridge supports and it will break up and move northward, taking along with it the debris of fallen trees and garbage collected along its journey.

The ice jam ends as abruptly as it begins. Another short, southward hike, another curve in the river, and the water opens up again.

ice jam 6

The ice jam is a paradox– both solid and ephemeral. Ice is helpless against the heat of the sun, but it can do tremendous damage. An ice jam is unpredictable and dangerous. And then it’s gone.

geese 3

 

 

Ripples

The theme of today’s Daily Prompt is “Texture.”

Freezing 4Back in mid-November, when the river was just beginning to freeze along the edges, I stumbled upon a fascinating textural effect along the shoreline. There must have been a wind blowing as the clay along the river’s edge was freezing, because frozen into the ground were distinct ridges capturing in solid form the ephemeral texture of the water lapping against the muddy shore. I was lucky to catch this sight– the conditions must have been just right to create the effect. A day or two earlier the ground was still malleable. A few days later the frozen ripples were hidden by a blanket of snow.

When that snow melts in the spring it will raise the river and saturated the shore, so this particular texture will no longer be present on this surface. The surface itself will be submerged, hidden by real ripples of surging water.

freezing 2Even if I walked the same path every day, the magic of nature is that it continually offers up new gifts. Some of those gifts, like my rippling water frozen both in temperature and time, are ephemeral. If we don’t stop to notice– to accept the gift– we may not be offered a second chance.

Impact

Today’s Daily Prompt: Tell us about a habit you’d like to break. Is there any way it can play a positive role in your life?

I like meteors.

The Perseid meteor shower peaks around August 9-14 every year. Like most events in the night sky, it is best viewed far away from the ubiquitous light pollution of urban areas. I’ve often been fortunate to be at the family cottage where we can lie on the dock, away from even the obscuring effect of the cottage lights, and listen to the lapping of the water and the distant cry of a loon while we watch for “shooting stars.”

Lying next to that particular body of water to observe bits of space rock burst into flame as they enter the earth’s atmosphere is made extra exotic by the fact that West Hawk Lake is actually a meteor impact crater. It is, therefore, hard not to contemplate the reality that once upon a time one of those pretty lights shooting through the night sky fell all the way and hit the earth right where you are lying–with enough impact to make a hole in the ancient granite of the Canadian Shield that is approximately 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) in diameter and 115 metres (377 feet) deep. It’s enough to make one go rooting around in the shed for dad’s old hard-hat.

Shooting stars are a beautiful sight when you are privileged to catch a glimpse of one. Perhaps because they are so ephemeral, they have throughout history acquired near-mystical significance. People once saw them as divine omens. We make wishes on them. But in reality all that magical beauty is just the long-distance view of something crashing into the upper atmosphere and being destroyed by the resulting conflagration.

That’s a less lovely image. In fact, it sound kind of messy.

Pretty nice for a hole in the ground...
Pretty nice for a hole in the ground…

Judging from the way the rocks are jumbled along the shoreline, I assume that, when the meteorite (which is what you call a meteor that actually lands) landed in the middle of the stretch of Canadian Shield that is now West Hawk Lake, it was extremely messy. Today,  the outcome of that catastrophic impact is an exquisite, spring-fed lake that has been my family’s summer destination for three generations.

We may wish on shooting starts, but it’s the meteorite landing that has the biggest impact.

I had my own crash-and-burn moment this week. In spite of my best efforts to ease myself back in gently, my first few days back at work after my leave left me feeling very much like I was hurtling into the atmosphere with enough force to ignite.

For one thing, there were some organizational changes announced just prior to my first day back, so I walked straight into the predictable tizzy that results from any such announcement. On top of that, this is a super busy time of year in my office. We are currently short-staffed. And of course, there was the shock of the overall pace and complexity of it all after so many leisurely days of doing, and thinking about, one thing at a time. But all that wasn’t really enough to explain why my head exploded.

Then about halfway through the week something shifted. I realized that I had fallen into an old habit that never serves me well: the habit of believing that I’m stuck in a rut, when in reality the tools to pull myself out of it have been in my hands all along. I realized that the greatest gift of my three month break from the familiar wasn’t all the fun I had while I was away, but rather a renewed clarity about things when I came back. I saw that for the umpteenth time in my life I had slipped into convincing myself that my work was something that happened to me, rather than something that was mine to create.

I remembered what I liked about my job: I have the great good fortune to be in a position to make an impact.

Marilyn Monroe is reputed to have said, “Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”

I may be a little singed by the time I hit the ground, but when I do, I intend to leave a mark.

Wading in

River view from UI live in a city named after muddy water. Two slow and silty rivers meander across the Manitoba prairie and meet up in the centre of town. I grew up on the bank of one river, and have recently found myself living on the bank of the other. I knew I missed the water, but I was surprised by the degree to which it felt like my soul had come home.

The water really is muddy. But the riverbank that rises from that mud is full of life and beauty. Full of trees.

Life is pretty muddy too. I am always looking for greater clarity. Trying to wade through the murk and muck to see what’s important. Trying to get somewhere in spite of the meandering. Trying to get somewhere simpler and more authentic than where I started. Hoping, once in a while, to pull something as beautiful as those trees out of my own foundation of silt and clay.

The river and the trees and the prairie sky are my muse. This blog is an attempt to share my musings.

What I hope you find here is a glimpse into what it means to seek clarity when one is a single, working mother, trying to carve out more hours in the day for the things that feed her soul. Like writing. And reading. And long, leisurely walks along the riverbank.