Later, I will mark this week as when spring's thaws and heartbreaks began--all those ephemeralities, all those tiny swift-going graces, all those raised hopes, all those moments of waiting, of learning again the movements of warmth. After weeks of bonechill and snowthreat, after a week in particular of slow motion and stranding (and awe and carnival, to be sure), the weather this week lightened and seemed to love us, at least during the day. Nights, though, have remained treacherous, have revealed what keeps on lurking even when the sun makes every living thing around unhunch just a bit. On Tuesday, black ice slithered out from the snowbanks and across the roads in no predictable pattern; on Wednesday, that snow fog made its encore appearance. Last night, it was just cold again, bitter cold, though the moon and the stars were visible once more.
This morning, I discovered what all of these careenings, all these thermometric ups and downs, have done to our snow cover. For the first time (that I can remember, anyway) since 1994, the snow has frozen solid, strong enough to bear my weight. Of all the people I know who are bearing heavy things right now, I'm perhaps the lightest and most fleet, but it still came as something of a relief, in the morning's early hours, to step onto the snow expecting to sink and instead to find myself skimming over a solidity.
There are tricks involved in not breaking through this new crust of refrozen thaw.
One of the tricks is that the tricks don't always work. Even the most careful and confident stepping, the most steady forward motion, doesn't keep the foot from breaking through the ice occasionally, leaving craters and tiny upshot bergs across our strange sublunar world.
But you have your best chance if you keep moving. (As I wrote down on a scrap of paper that's now a bookmark in a book that gave me my day's greatest revelation today, "Once you're in motion you must stay in motion. / That's the trick. / That's one trick, anyway." Elementary physics, badly torqued and impossible to keep track of.) Swiftly, lightly, as evenly as possible. Not too heavy on the toe. Not too heavy on the heel. Flat, forward-looking, a nonstop going on.
As you proceed, your feet gone small though they carry you like snowshoes, you might find yourself wanting to turn back, to see if anyone hesitates on the edge of the yard's blank. You might want to discover anyone who might need your beckoning. Don't. Don't stop; don't look back. If they're still waiting, it's because they need time, or because they can't yet want this feeling of skating where there is no body of water, or of having no body where the changeful water has played all week under the sun and moon, melting and freezing and melting and freezing, growing surer and stronger each time. Slide forward over the brilliance in the day; slide forward under the blueness of the night. Those who are meant to be there when you've crossed that expanse will push off in the time of their own sweetnesses.