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In the Bush: Freeze-up different every year, and always beautiful 'beyond these words I write to you'

'I want to walk across the lake. But I dare not. The desire to stay warm and dry is stronger'
(Supplied/Viki Mather)

I want to go walking on the lake. It froze over three days ago. All at once. One day I was canoeing over the dark cold water, and the next morning the dark had turned to ice. 

The day before, we watched through the afternoon when the wind died down. Long crystals of ice formed into patches of floating Jack Frost. The patches grew until they joined. As the darkness came, half our bay had succumbed to this thin layer of ice.

Next morning we could not tell ice from water. Couldn’t tell if there was any water at all. Until the sun came up, and we could get a good look with the binoculars. The lake surface was black as far as we could see. 

It wasn’t particularly cold, perhaps -11 C. Still, if there was open water there would be fog. I scanned with the binos to the north, to the south, all the way to the eastern shore. Nothing. Not a hint of a breeze, not a hint of mist. 

As the sun rose higher, we could see a reflection of the forest. Not quite as clear as it was a few days earlier. The frosty crystals of ice do not reflect quite as well as glassy cold water.

Ah but then it snowed. Through the afternoon and into the night. When we woke the snow lay two inches thick upon the ice. Like a blanket. A blanket that would keep the ice thin. I wanted to go walking. But I dared not.

Two days later there were fox tracks on the lake. Along the shore right outside our window, and a long curving path across to the big island. There’s lots of ice on the lake … if you are a fox. 

For these past three days there has been no wind. Nothing to blow the snow around and take that blanket away to allow the ice to grow thick. Nothing to disturb the fine flat expanse reaching to the far shore, It draws my desire to go for a walk. Winter has returned. I want to go everywhere.

The fourth morning dawns after the freeze. Still. Quiet. Cold. Hairline cracks have allowed water to seep through the snow. Now a long jagged line of frozen slush runs from my dock to the little island across the way. It’s six feet wide. There at least, the ice will have a chance to thicken. I want to walk across the lake. But I dare not. The desire to stay warm and dry is stronger.

Note from Viki: I first wrote about the lake freezing over in 1984. Every year I write about it again. Because every year it is different. Every year it is beautiful. Magical beyond these words I write to you.

Viki Mather has been commenting for Northern Life on the natural world and life in Greater Sudbury since the spring of 1984. Got a question or idea for Viki? Send an email to