Thin Ice

Spirits in the Ice

Winter in the Fraser Valley where I live is an odd season for those of us who live here. It flies in the face of the Canadian cliché of igloos and outdoor hockey games and makes us the butt of much ridicule by those hardier souls populating the rest of this nation draped like an expansive shawl beneath the shoulders of the Arctic Circle. Here, in the fertile lands where the Fraser River has deposited the rich soils collected from the varied regions it crosses, we face winter’s temperate cousin. What she lacks in mercury plummeting breath and icy blue stares she more than makes up for in blank, joy sucking, grey skies and bone numbing humidity that burrows through clothing like no prairie wind I know. What other Canadians see as a wimpy West Coast season is actually a diabolically taunting torture foisted upon us by the warm southerly influences of the mighty Pacific Ocean. The issue for us in this climatic blemish on Canada’s frigid face is that we who adore the sport arguably designed to help us endure such inclement iciness cannot even enjoy the sparkling gift of winter’s subzero arsenal on which it is played. Hockey, at least its outdoor incarnation from which the major leagues were birthed, needs ice. Ice thick enough to support the players. Here winter’s kin can only muster enough layers to tease.

Thin ice is tantalizing. On the face of it there is the promise of being able to walk on the water, to go places that were previously inaccessible by foot. Beneath the ice lies a hypothermic realm that is hostile to our survival. Water laden clothing that was once keeping the body warm now becomes a leaden weight bearing the body away from safety and footwear made for traction on terra firma offers little little hydrodynamic resistance for propelling the body upward. The mode of existence above the ice is completely nonadaptable to that immediately below its mesmerizing surface. Thin ice though, is everywhere. Even the habitable layer enveloping our earth in astronomical terms makes the skiffs of ice on coastal ponds appear glacial by comparison. How thin then is the ice between us and the end of us? Knowing there is no safe shore from which to simply resist the urge to walk out, knowing that it will indeed break beneath us, the question is what are you wearing for when that happens, and are you willing to look silly here so as to survive there?

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