walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

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For most of my life, ice was something that one got from the freezer, either by fiddling with a lever while trying not to freeze to the tray, or daring each other to put tongue to the rime on the coffin freezer in the garage, or, somewhat later, from ice machines. A soft drink without ice was unthinkable, water without ice was undesirable. Occasionally, drivers would trade horror stories about encountering black ice on a bridge late some winter's night in a colder than usual year.

Some years ago, in an effort to enjoy being active, I took to playing in the mountains: hiking, snowshoeing. Ice acquired new meaning. Well into spring, and at higher altitudes, even late in summer, mountain lakes might still have ice on them when I wanted to swim in them. I did not always let this stop me. When I started taking long road trips, ice on the road was no longer a war story, a chestnut to be pulled out and polished year after year. Ice on the road became something very predictable on certain stretches of interstate during any time of year other than the last week or two of July and most of August. Even so, until the last few weeks, ice was something that required maintenance. I had to go visit it, or I had to pay the power bill to make it.

Now when I am at home, I am in a world of ice. Even when it has not snowed in days, as it thaws from the roof, it forms icicles. Even when the roads have been cleared for days, it collects in low spots as snow thaws and refreezes through the daily temperature cycle.

While machinery helps, there are limits to what it can do. Snowblowers are relatively useless when less than a half inch of snow has fallen. But if you leave it on the driveway, it will become compact snow and ice, and then ice, and it will be with you for a long time, a hazard whenever you go out for the mail, and to anyone foolish enough to attempt the driveway without very good tires. Sand improves traction, but makes a disastrous mess of everything. Salt melts ice at lower temperatures, but is not particularly good for the environment.

So whenever it warms up a bit to the low to mid 30s and the ice softens up, I go out and whack at it for a while, encouraging the strips of ice to loosen further so they can be shoveled off the driveway. Between the whacking, and the shoveling whenever that thin layer of snow reappears, I have the best shoulders, really the best upper body, of my entire life, including the years spent earning my black belt. I have a pair of shoes, IceBugs, which guarantee I won't lose my footing, but I don't bother to put them on when it has not snowed, because the studded soles make irritating scritching noises. Instead I wear cowboy boots or walking shoes. And I slip, every time I step on the ice when I'm whacking at other ice. A few days ago, that got my heart rate up as I envisioned myself sprawling on the concrete, bruised and checking for broken bones. Now, I hardly notice as I pick up the foot that is skittering away from me and put it back down on bare pavement. When both slide and my arms come up, it gets my attention, but even my fear of that has evaporated. Or sublimated. Or whatever you call that odd phenomenon by which ice turns to water vapor without bothering to spend time as a liquid.
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