Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ice, Ice, Baby.

I'm back.  And I've been gone so long even Blogger didn't remember me.  What can I say.  It was knee surgery.  It was Turkey Day.  It was Christmas.  It was New Years.  It was my birthday.  I was preoccupied.  But I'm here now.

Talking about ice.

I'm confident that if you're savvy enough to go bloggering about the Internet, you already know that the Native Americans formerly (and I believe now un-PC-ly) known as Eskimos had something like 100 words for snow.  Presumably that was because they didn't have TV, cars, drive-in movies or iPads and got really familiar with snow.  Which was one thing -- maybe almost the only thing -- they did have.

This is a pretty story and there's a lesson in there I'm sure, but apparently it's not exactly true. These indigenous peoples, while they must have had many distinctions for snow that even, say, Clevelanders don't have, they didn't have 100.

According to Wiki (No-Leaki) Pedia: 

"One can create a practically unlimited number of new words in the Eskimoan languages on any topic, not just snow, and these same concepts can be expressed in other languages using combinations of words." 

Apparently, this is because of prefixes and word combos like "ohno more crappy" snow or "don't tell me it's ^&*%$ snowing again" snow.   Which aren't distinct words as much as a possible heartfelt sentiment of the Inuit peoples. 

Which brings me, inevitably, as always, to me.

And to my lake which is currently freezing over because it's been way cold.  And rather calm.  Which creates excellent conditions for the freezing of lakes. 

We have lived at the brink of this lake for five full winters now.  This is Winter #6.  We get asked quite a few questions about when, how, why -- all that -- the lake freezes.  The answer, the truth, is:  Beats me.

Every year it's been different.  The first year it didn't freeze at all.  It tried.  But no luck.

Winter 2, it froze overnight.  From a turgid, gelular (I knew there was no word such as gelular -- gel-like, it was) sort of subdued state at bedtime, it went dead solid by 3 a.m.  I wrote about this in my third unpublished novel, as follows:

"It was a white night.  For a moment I couldn’t absorb what I was seeing.  At dusk, the ice had been just a thin line, barely visible on the horizon. And Emily had showed me the slushy bubbles she called Slurpee Ice just beginning to congeal.  Now the freezing had overcome everything. The lake was a bright plain, flat and dazzling under the stark glare of a high, almost-full moon.  Just like that.  Close in to shore I could see a few black rivers of water still moving.  Fed by some warmer current and still alive in that pale, dead world." 

(This insight on the part of my protagonist was followed shortly thereafter by murder and mayhem and a denouement that occurred out there on the ice.  But that's not important now.)
And it actually was also an introduction to one of my own 100 words for ice:   Slurpee Ice.  Granular coatings of crushed coldness that snap frozen. Just like that.  

"Ah," I mused back then. "So that's how it happens!"  

Nope.  That's how it happened in Winter 2.  

In the ensuing winters I have coined such new expressions as "Chunky Monkey Ice,  Sparkling Diamond Ice,  Crazy Jumbled-Up Ice, Blowing Sand Dune Snow/Ice, Hockey-able Ice,  'Look At That Triangle of Ice!' Ice."  Last year was "Wooee!  Big Mountain!" Ice.  And this year "Telephone Line Ice" for unexpectedly smooth ice with lots of long, straight, hair-line cracks running through it. 

So, big surprise.  It's never quite the same.  That's just the way of it.  Yesterday there was a bald eagle sitting out there wondering why there was a &*(&%% floor between him and the fish.  Today a coyote, moving quick. On very cold paws, I'm guessing. 

Every year.  Every season.  Every day is different on Lake E.   The photo I took 45 minutes ago, is out of date now as snow coats our world.  The breakers of autumn have become a silent field of snow.  There's a word for that.

I think I'll call this one, "Beautiful."