A Fascination on Ice

By Julia Curran

I’m a neophyte “iceologist,”[1] just a few years in to studying one of the beauties I love most, keenly aware of its fragility, the rarity of clear ice within a mile’s walk of my door. Last year’s show of glorious beauty was only a few days before a blanket of snow fell like an unannounced curtain ending the performance.

I watch forecasts, try to predict how an eerie 60°F plus rain will interact with occluded slush, as if I could change it. I scan the lake for waves, darkness, places where open water might still turn to clear ice 18 inches thick if my luck holds. I’m trying to calibrate the lakes to one another, guess at where my best hopes remain.

More than snow, however, I fear climate breakdown will steal my ice walks. 417 ppm CO2 (and rising [2]) is an immediate threat to this particular wrenching beauty, not only to all we have predicated our lives and societies on (the pandemic a brutal but relatively mild and absolutely predictable opening act (for many of us) of what we’ve wrought).

I vacillate between hope and resignation. Right now, with fairly large swathes of open water on Isles yesterday and no snow on the horizon, I’m at hopeful again, the kind of hope that gets my adrenaline surging just feeling it.

Yesterday, the lake was all tourist turquoise, reflecting the sky but with the blues dropped down. Despite the crunch-slush edges and the little waves of the visible open water, I felt the pull to go out further on it, to move towards that brightness and peer into every surface smooth enough to reflect light.

Ice that turns blue sky to the shades of a tropical ocean is a mirage, a destination that remains just out of reach. But every time I arrive at where it was and look down, the ice is as black as night, as full of mystery and wonder, as unspeakable. I walk towards one beauty and am rewarded by its inverse, and the exchange is so much more than I ever could have dreamt of.

I wait, now, for ice fishers to arrive, harbingers of safe ice, kindred spirits of water walking. I check the ice daily, the frozen lakes alive and kin to me in a way the summer lakes never are.

I hope.


  1. The formal study of ice is called glaciology.
  2. https://gml.noaa.gov/ccgg/trends/monthly.html

Julia Curran is a contributor to Climate Steps, and, via her handle @happifydesign, has been writing, creating, and discovering with photography (and cooking and mending and exploring) for several years via Instagram and Twitter. A friend and fellow Climate Reality Leader, she has agreed to share some of her writings here – past and present.


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