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One of the honest and true pleasures of life on Lake Superior is experiencing its forms of icy cover. It’s arguably foolish of me to attempt any description, but not being bound by appearances I’ll look the fool and hope it works. Some things don’t cross over into words very well. Take winter camping on a wilderness lake at ten below when bright curtains of purple and green Northern Lights are suddenly punctuated by a meteor slashing brightly from east to west. No words can convey the combine of temperature and emotion sending wild shivers down the spine. You not only had to be there to get the full impact, but you had to be open to it. The point is I was outside observing the amazing winter night sky and not sensibly in the tent huddled for warmth in my Black’s Icelandic.
The element of being open to the environment was brought home recently in casual conversation with people who’d retired here some time ago and were enthusing about the beautiful brilliance of the ice. I asked what I thought an appropriate and logical question. “Have you ever listened to the ice singing?” They looked at me like I was some sort of lunatic with overactive imagination they hoped would not suddenly turn chainsaw murderer. Backing away slightly they asked what I meant. I explained that on a deep freeze night it was well worth the time and effort to bundle up for an ice symphony. Acting somewhat relieved they asked “Why bother at night when you can hear the ice crack and tinkle along shore during the day/” I told them “It’s not the same. The lake makes ice at night when the cold is deepest and there’s no wind. That’s when the growing ice sings as pressures build up in miles-long high-pitch chimes and deep long groans. At 2AM the ice music is unlike anything you’ll ever hear in the day.” Mention of 2 AM seemed to be the deal killer not spoken but announced in nods saying “Not for me.” I didn’t press the point. The Great Lake in winter isn’t like a calendar photo you can hang comfortably on an office wall to enjoy wrapped in a cozy cocoon of ownership. Lake Superior doesn’t sing for everyone, only those who earn it will be fortunate enough to hear a note begin near-shore and carry on singing miles toward the horizon. This does not happen when you’re wrapped in an electric blanket.
The specialness of night ice was brought back to mind not long ago when I woke to a perfect sheet of frozen black as if the dark of night had been caught and held captive to see the light of day. But night ice and daylight winds are temperamental elements and by the time I got camera ready the flawless image was busting up as a southerly breeze kicked sheet ice into fractures and cubes. People in the Twin Ports know well how lake ice will pile into their ports in spring, and it is not too uncommon to see special photo spreads on shore rocks encased in ice or piled ice that has been eroded into caves or other fantasies that promote a photographer’s imagination. It’s true the lake does amazing things with ice. A good blow can push ice ashore into hills that from shore block the lake from view. It is fascinating to watch a hill grow, especially at the end when all the rush and roar of ice churned waves result in no more than a cube or two making it to the hilltop. As quickly as these grow they will crash down leaving no evidence of nature’s idle play. I’m not aware of anyone having recorded layers of wind driven night ice colliding in icy cascades or acting as rolling and tumbling chimes in an instrument with an uncountable number of similar but unique notes. But, I suspect there is only one true way to experience this and that is to get out there in the reach of the wind where the music is born and emanates out to those lucky enough to find a seat outside the chorus. Quite often (this winter it seems especially so) I see a visitor car pull over for someone to pop out of the car to snap a pic before hurrying back into comfort. The snap of Lake Superior shore can then join the pic of the day’s lunch and brew enjoyed in the warmth and safety of an “establishment.” But then I don’t suppose everyone is prepared to face Lake Superior directly and will be well satisfied with a neater less bothersome experience.
A few weeks back I disparaged JK Rowling and have been reprimanded for not understanding that the great authoress had meant she’d worked with the wizarding world not that she’d actually been in it. I get the distinction but beg to demurely object based on her words. She said she was in the wizard world, and if that was not what she meant then she was professionally sloppy. Not meaning what you say is misleading or lying. In JK’s case (her fans might need to begin fanning themselves) I’d guess she wasn’t lying but was instead delusional. Who am I to say such a thing? I’d say I’m someone who is not bowled over by flummery. And what’s more I can supply evidence of delusion from the same source who has said with a puffed up show of political weight that she remembers the US Ambassador to the UK, Joseph Kennedy. If so this would need to be a prenatal memory on a level with living in a non-existent wizard world. The overlap of Kennedy Sr. and Rawlings was little more than three years, so if recollections of the former ambassador exist in JK I’d guess they have a lot in common with the contents of a nappy, British English for diaper. In fairness I must say the first Potter book was indeed clever and cute. After that it was good fortune for Daniel Radcliff but otherwise commerce all the way.