Ice on the sea

In Rhode Island, it is an extremely rare occurrence. I personally have never seen it, and I grew up in that state. While I was out on Block Island, one day the temperature plummeted. It was always cold when I was out there, frost on the grass and all that, and that’s normal, but one day it got scary cold, which reminded me of that terrifying winter in Chicago when I got frost bite and I realized, for the first time, what WINTER really meant. I had gone out on the “scary” cold day, not realizing what I was getting myself into, and went down to Crescent Beach and only lasted about 5 minutes, realizing that the cold (plus the wind) was on another level entirely. You just couldn’t be outside, basically. I fled back to the warmth of my house, and then, still not getting the picture, drove up to the airport at sunset to see the planes on the airfield, and again … was reminded: You need to effing be inside, lady.

That night, the wind rocked my house. I lay in bed, hearing the shutters rattle. Sometimes I said outloud, “Wow.”

The next day, there wasn’t any more wind, but it was still damn cold – but to me, it felt like normal cold. Not scary cold. It’s like going to the beach and seeing big waves, and you think they’re really big, but then you see REALLY big waves, and you realize that “big wave” can’t even really apply to what you saw earlier. It’s a whole different animal. (Patrick O’Brien captures this amazingly in his Master and Commander books – the difference between weather and WEATHER.)

Anyway. I went to the library, like I did a couple times a week, to check my email, and everyone there was talking about the ice.

The ice on the ocean.

Ice on the ocean? After being an Ocean State girl my whole life, I have never seen ice floating up against the shore. I’ve seen it on Lake Michigan, but that’s different. It was doubly weird because of that thing I had read earlier in The Block Island Times about the winter of 1917-18, when the ocean froze around the island. The OPEN ocean. Unheard of in Rhode Island!!

Now this was not as extreme. The open ocean remained clear, but ice had coated the shore and stretched out far enough that it was at the over-your-head point of the water. I stood on the jetty by the harbor, and I could see the little grey waves lapping up against the ice – it made a clear line. Incredible. Snow had collected on the ice, this wasn’t some thin flimsy covering, and chunks of ice floated around. The jetty’s outer arms were coated in ice, it was totally ice-bound, a band of white that started on the rocks and stretched out over the water.

Again, I have seen this kind of thing on Lake Michigan repeatedly, but never on the ocean in Rhode Island. The Islanders are used to weather. Nothing really fazes them. But everybody was talking about THIS. “Did you see the ice?” “Jesus, there’s ice on the ocean, did you see it?”

Yes, I did.

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2 Responses to Ice on the sea

  1. Cara Ellison says:

    Oh my God.

    Perhaps I am too literal but I thought of that Kafka quote, “I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? …we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.”

    That last sentence is so much more vivid now that I’ve seen these pictures.


  2. Jayne says:

    That’s amazing, Sheila.

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