01 February 2011

Incased in Ice

For the last few days, our neighborhood has been incased in frosty glass like Tennessee Williams' menagerie, and it's, as he would have said, goddamn beautiful. I've spent a lot of winters in snowy climates, but never seen anything like this.

A few foggy mornings ago, I woke up and peered out the window. To my knee-jerk cynical eye, it at first looked like an overly-energetic department store window-dresser had snuck through the forest the night before to spray plastic Christmas flocking over every branch of every tree. But I knew better, and knew I must see this phenomenon up close and personal.

So I did what any intrepid investigative reporter would do. I did breakfast -- with extra mother-in-law-made plum jam to gird myself against the coming expedition. Then I looked at the thermometer (actually not much below freezing), liberally layered myself with fleece, wound enough scarf around and around my neck to comfort a Rapunzel, grabbed a camera and headed outside.
I wished I'd had a physicist with me -- somebody who could explain how the hell these infinite miniscule icicles form at every angle on every branch big and small.

Ask and ye shall receive, right? As I peered at the tiny gem-like spikes of ice, the most beautiful barbed wire you'll ever see, voilà, there was my lovely neighbor Marie, not even wearing a coat, holding the two CDs I'd loaned her. "Bonjour Bill," she sang (she's in a choir, and always seems to half-sing everything she says). In French she said, "It's beautiful, oui ?"

Oui, I said. Oui, oui, oui. But what makes these marvelous little crystals poking out from every branch on every plant?

Marie explained that it's the fog's humidity and the dry cold, which, when combined in just the right proportions create this miniature icicle magic. At least I think that's what she said. But my French is still bad, plus I was distracted by the snot just then freezing on my lip.

Anyway, three cold foggy days later, this little winter miracle continues.

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