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Mather: Patiently waiting for the ice to melt

There was still lots of ice on local lakes when columnist Viki Mather wrote this piece not long ago

May by the lake. Still ice. Lots of ice. My canoe is tucked away in the garage. No rush. There’s lots of time.

While watching and waiting, I’ve been reading notes we’ve taken over the decades. In 1985 I bought a diary type book with the intention of making notes every day.

As it turned out, we really only kept track of events while the lake was freezing in the fall, and when the ice began to melt in spring. We can look back to any date to compare what was happening from year to year. I could flip through the pages, back and forth to see how thick the ice was on any particular day. Then I had to flip through the pages and pick out the entry for each year to see how things progressed. 

Just this week, it occurred to me that it would be way more useful if the notes for each year were on one page. So I’ve started to transcribe. 1985. 1986. 1987. 1988…. It is taking a long time. But the real story I’m learning here is that it takes a lot of warm days to melt two feet of ice from the lake. May 1st 2018 ‘Two feet of solid ice 40 feet out from shore.’

About half the time, there was no ice at all on May 1st. Of course, the other half of the time there was ice. Yet hardly ever was there enough ice to travel. Just once in 1996. And now again in 2018.

Back to the record book. 1989. 1990. 1991…. I’m tiring of waiting of the ice to melt with each passing year. It takes weeks once the warm temperatures arrive. So I look out to the ice of 2018. Weeks. 

I step out across a narrow gap between shore and ice to go for another walk. Or maybe a ski. If conditions allow, we might even get the bikes out. Is it safe? This year, yes. We are familiar with the signs of weak ice on our lake. I would not be confident on any other lake, but ours yes. There are places that always melt out first. And sometimes new places melt early. We watch the signs. And we check the thickness and strength every day.

It is very beautiful to walk everywhere. The forest so many shades of green, the rocks so many shades of grey, the ice so white. The colours of the old stumps are rich and magnificent. 

Sandhill cranes are heard in the distance, geese fly overhead. Spring is coming. Really.

Viki Mather has been commenting for Northern Life on the natural world and life in Greater Sudbury since the spring of 1984.