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Michigan On Ice March 6 09

I wanted to get out and see it while it was still there to see. This time of year, once can’t count on its sticking around; it could linger for several more weeks or be gone within a day or two. I’m talking about ice.

Granted, ice is not normally the most compelling subject. I mean, in March, there is plenty of the stuff to be had, and here in Michigan we’re kind of eager for it to go away, right?

But this winter, the flooding produced by massive snowmelts followed by deep freezes has left us with entire landscapes that have been defined by ice. Not just lakes and rivers, but also acre upon glossy, glass-like acre of fields and forests, transformed into works of icy art.

At Pickerel Lake Park near Grattan Township in east-central Kent County, arctic winds have scoured the icy surface of the lake. You can find the same phenomenon all across Michigan: countless lakes frozen into vast, snowless mirrors reflecting the color of the sky above.

I ventured out onto the boardwalk to take a few photos of that looking-glass ice, shining glacial blue beneath the azure of the clear, late afternoon. I had an idea that I would continue from there to hike the trails and see what I could see. Pickerel Lake is a beautiful park and well worth exploring any time of year. But I hadn’t reckoned on how cold it was. The same frigid wind that had so effectively swept the snows off of the lake was now very quickly sucking the heat out of my hands. You’d think that by now I’d remember to wear gloves, but no, that lesson just doesn’t seem to penetrate, and it’s darned hard to take pictures when your fingers are numb to the bone. So I finally turned back, hopped in my car, and headed east.

Right about the time that my fingers were regaining feeling, it was time to pull off the road and take more pictures. A stand of roadside trees had grabbed my attention—or, more accurately, their present setting had caught my eye and required my response. So much of our appreciation of the natural world lies in exactly that: how we respond to it. Will we step off the treadmill of the day’s preoccupations when a moment beckons, long enough to slow down inside and look—really look, with all of our senses and our heart—at the beauty that surrounds us? Because that beauty is everywhere: a knobbly old oak; the linear silhouettes of reeds mirrored in lake water; the ratcheting of sandhill cranes from out over the marshes; a rosy sunset casting long shadows across a river valley; the scent of honey locusts filling the late spring evening.

Or a frozen, wintry grove glorified by the afternoon sun.

At one time, the road where I was parked had clearly been underwater. Remnants of the original ice field, clinging to the tree trunks, now stood transfixed by the light, gleaming like glass shelves and crystal plates suspended above the present, icy surface. It was an amazing and beautiful sight, and I did my best to capture it with my camera.

In this last, rather abstract-looking photo, if you look closely, you’ll notice that the right side of it shows a thin plate of ice suspended on a branch. You can see right through that plate, just like you would through a pane of glass, to the newer ice below. And no, that’s not water splashing around the branch. It’s all ice, nothing but ice.

And for all I know, with the temperatures steadily rising these past few days and on into the weekend, that ice may be gone by now. If it’s not, it will be shortly. Today’s treasures dissipate in tomorrow’s sunlight—true of winter, and true of life.

I’m glad I took a little time to capture some memories.





Written by Dave.