It is spring and I do not think there will be more ice this year.
In the late fall I developed the habit of leaving empty jars on my porch, having sat on my steps in the morning with coffee or tea, there for the sun. I am always distracted by myself, and often eight or nine empty jars would collect before I removed them weeks later. As winter came, rain would sometimes fill the jars during the day and, as the temperature dipped in the evening, the water would freeze, cracking the glass in its expansion. I’d come outside as the sun hit the porch in the morning, the ice melting and water leaking from another fractured vessel.
Jar after jar broken, I began to obsessively chronicle the images. The blue of the white, the sheens and the luster, the obfuscating, dewy clouds. I poured water into glasses in the evening and, waking with the sun, hurried outside to see if the frost had set hard enough. Ice breaks differently than glass breaks, and I realized it was the ice in which my interest resided.
In part, it is the potential to melt and the potential to shatter.
Months have passed, and I have other projects in the air– a long essay on Felix Gonzalez Torres, a cross-media collaboration with a dancer, freelance reviews. Instead, with my time I continue to describe the breaking ice. I have pages and pages of these descriptions, repetitive to the point of tedium when read, but alive, even surprising, as I write them. I try to venture away from the obsessive focus, but descriptions of still ice are eventually cracked, and when I look at water, crystal or glass, they demand a comparison backward. I visit a friend in another city who tells me unprompted of his own imagistic obsession with glass breaking, a disclosure that heightens my affection for him and my need to write of ice. For days, my writing routine has the slight glow of his presence.
The surface is a crisp thing. It is eidolon blue, a blue that is grey. I put my hand above the ice and hold it as close there as I can without touching. My hand aches both from holding the position and from the radiation of cold, somehow more than the cold dry air moving above the bed of the creek.
I wonder how I might get to the Arctic, what grants might allow this. Maybe Alaska would be easier. The pages continue to accumulate and I mention my infatuation to the dancer. She tells me that she crawls through the woods for hours, no project in mind but that movement. I think maybe that I could even show her or another friend the accruing paragraphs, but whenever I go backward and read again, I tire after only a few pages. Videos of crumbling glaciers are nice but insufficient.
It is not the ice as form or substance, the potential to shatter or the splintered moments after, but the precise instant of the break with its inaudibly high-pitched screech. How could the language hold this, and only this?
In winter, there are thin spirals of ice around the bases of some small plants. The whorls are birthed when the freezing temperature causes the stems of certain weeds to split, the water vapor inside released and then frozen into a white garland, which the plant itself might not survive. This is an instance of the ice breaking something else. As such, I am only interested in the whorls when I bend and pick a frostweed, when trying to transport the delicate icy petals into a jar inevitably causes them to craze over.
All the questions of my habits come to mind. I want to tease out my interiority, using the words to make myself of the world rather than a person further displaced from it. Why, then, this moment, so plain even while beautiful, so private in my devotion? I worry that as I long for the ice’s fracture, the drawn-out hours of writing only mark disassociation.
As always, the trilliums are one of the first blooms in Tennessee this spring. The folded and slender purple petals of the flower come when they always come, their two-greened leaves spreading in the last weeks of March. I think the whorls of frost would be beautiful if they split the trillium’s stem, but the flowers come just a moment too late, and I’m unsure if their biology is even prone to these ruptures. The sun hits my porch just as I step outside in the morning. I stretch, which is not something I typically do. The cedar decking I laid weeks ago still smells like a pungent, dry-mouthed cinnamon. Because I have not planed the wood it is possible to move my bare feet in such a way that a splinter enters them, but this does not happen without my intention. The water in the few jars is white with motes. I find myself hoping that someone will walk by and, seeing me in my concentration, decide not to say hello.