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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Ice Storm

It's a first draft and will probably be deleted, but feedback is welcome. This describes an experience I had tonight. Appleton was hit with a blanket of ice from freezing rain this morning, followed by about 8 inches of snow tonight. As I was shoveling snow on our sidewalk by our large and mostly infertile plum tree, I was amazed at the curious sound the ice-encrusted tree made in the breeze, a sound of tension and friction and crackling. And then I noticed the beauty of the clear ice on the bark and a delicate little icicle hanging from one branch. What a sweet photo that would make! But something went wrong.

My experience made me ponder a few things, and I thought I would write it up somehow. Here's the first draft:

Ice Storm: The Transgression

Rain this morning moistened the bark of my plum tree

Then froze and made it captive, a wonder

Glistening, completely sheathed and caught up

In this rite of winter, a garden of delight.


As the wind brushed the paired ice and wood

They tinkled and crackled with life

Like a bed of puffed rice on a churning sea of milk.

So unexpected, this call, this voice of ice against bark, -

Was it the sound of friction, or perhaps the yielding of ice

As the tree sought to bend where ice could not,

Or the squeaking of wood pressed to new forms -

I did not know, but I was curious, and listened

Until the breeze faded, and the night was still.


The ice shimmered in the streetlight, most brightly

On a limb near me, where an alien icicle grew from a whisper of ice

And flared out below, a crystal plumb-bob defining up and down,

Or a divine fruit clinging to a brittle stem.


I would return, I promised, in due time to this gift,

And bring lights, reflector, tripod, and camera

To capture this delicacy and celebrate the beauty of ice and bark.

But I must wait and first shovel this sidewalk, my duty.


I soon stopped, as the memory of the sound of crisp ice against bark

Made me curious anew: I reached back to touch, just once, to touch and feel

And stir that tingling voice of two natures moving as one.

Unthinking, hurried, a random twig - and then I heard the breaking

Of a sacred thread and the gentle crunch of a fruit falling into the snow,

A promise unkept.


9 comments:

jayleenb said...

OOf! As a photographer I can empathize! Sometimes the 'one that got away' can still make me wince. One thing I've learned as a photographer is nothing (well, almost nothing) is more important than capturing that moment when you know that photo is going to really be something special. I'd have dropped the shovel and grabbed the camera! :)

E in Chicagoland said...

Thank you for leaving this post up. It spoke to my heart.

This past week has been a hard one: My brother lies intubated in an Intensive Care Unit, dying from complications of cancer. Like the plum tree in your yard, my brother showed little outward productivity in life, as he suffered from mental illness for decades. Yet this last storm in his life has given our family the opportunity to see another side of him as he has faced his illness with grace and humble acceptance.

I have a son who attends Northern Illinois University and who walked out of his mid-afternoon class Thursday minutes after the shootings in another building. In the confusion of flashing emergency vehicles and clusters of students puzzlingly outside in the bitter cold without their winter coats, he had the presence of mind to call us and let us know he was OK. I have spent several days now pondering the randomness of life and how we cannot delay impulses to enjoy the positive.

And then last night a dear friend called to tell me her father had collapsed with a stroke on the ski slopes, and was facing a grim prognosis. If he doesn’t make it through this, I know that she and her mother will be comforted that he spent his last day on earth skiing with his beloved family and grandchildren. Her father is the kind of man who manages to balance Duty with opportunities to Follow His Heart, with his heart taking precedence.
It is important to know that neither my friend nor her Dad is especially prosperous, and they all live in the Midwest, but they planned and saved and all flew out to the Rockies for a long weekend. Her father had promised his granddaughters they would learn how to snow ski. No promises unkept.

In the Bible story of Mary and Martha, the Savior suggests that following one’s heart can sometimes be ‘taking the better part’. Thanks for reminding us.

E in Chicagoland said...

Commenting on the poem itself, I liked it! The words and rhythm felt right and conveyed very well the atmosphere I too have experienced after a winter ice storm. The only line I paused at was the Rice Krispies reference -- it captured the sounds of a wintry evening, but it somehow brought me abruptly indoors when I was savoring being out in the crisp night air.

You are a man of many talents, Jeff. I'm glad you share

pepektheassassin said...

Very nice -- the icicle that "grew from a whisper of ice" becoming "a crystal plum-bob defining up and down"...

We didn't really need a photo (tho' one would have been great). You said it. Well done, from the promise to the fall. You ARE a man of many talents!

Dan and Wendy said...

Hi Jeff,

Though I live in Arizona now, I served my mission in Montreal. There are few things that I have seen that compare in beauty to freezing rain. You described it very well. Of course, after admiring its beauty, you have to interact with it, and it loses a bit of its lustre.

Hey, I was just given "A Roar for Powerful Words" award for my blog by another blogger. I am encouraged to give it out to five other bloggers. You are an obvious choice. You can see the award at my blog, and save a copy of it if you'd like.

I really do enjoy reading your posts. Thanks.

NM said...

So, so sad...

A very beautiful poem Jeff; thank you.

wtkeeney said...

Nice, Jeff!! You didn't need the picture- the words captured it themselves!
There really is an incredible beauty after an ice storm. (If you can ignore the fallen trees and branches in the road and on your roof).
I have photos of our home and yard after an ice storm. Besides the destruction-- it's actually amazingly beautiful! When everything is covered with ice (and I mean EVERYTHING) and the morning sunlight hits it, everything around is shining like diamonds. It's actually quite a sight.
And the SOUND of those branches breaking off the trees-- wow. Talk about freaky! Everywhere, all around you, you hear these deep echoing, cracking noises, and a humongous THUD as a big branch hits the ground.
So then you run in the house, grab the camera take a bunch of pictures of the shining, crystalized earth surrounded you...then try to figure out how you're going to get that tree off your car. :)

Anonymous said...

Is this poem really about morality and sexuality? The transgression of sexual sin?

Mormanity said...

Almost afraid to admit it, but it was a theme I tried to bring in without saying too much.