The world is glass

Yesterday’s precipitation froze during the night to coat the entire neighborhood in ice of varying thickness. When I first went out early this morning, the least challenging places were those in which the stuff had been churned before refreezing, creating traction by way of ice ridges and valleys. In many places, however, it was a frightfully smooth rime.

In a couple spots along Morris Street and across from the drug store/post office on Fenwick Street, I slid for several metres at a time, and saw others windmill as they nearly toppled during a skid. Even now, after a morning of sun, there are large slick places that are better avoided than attempted by thsoe of us uncertain of how absolutely we can remain upright. Tomorrow morning will be hellish walking to the ferry terminal.

In the midst of all this, the joggers continue. I cannot figure out the physics of their success: they wear regular track shoes and never seem to slide or even hold back or go around sheets of ice.

Since physics isn’t providing me with a reasonable explanation, I am put in mind of Miki Prelog, who, when I was 5 and he 10, showed me how to climb along snow and ice clogged ravines and slide along frozen creeks without ever falling. The only rational part of his teaching that remains with me is to step lightly. I don’t know if the strange loose knees and tiny steps I go to in these underfoot conditions also come from his suggestions.

It is a good time of year to think of Miki. One big adventure we had happened three days before Christmas, 1962, my mother’s birthday, and the day on which she always set aside for obtaining and decorating a Christmas tree. That year, Miki and I and a friend of his named Mike took my sled through a patch of woods to collect the tree at a nursery. As we walked, the boys alternately told me scary stories and ignored me, leaving me to find useful footholds on the slopes…

…until we came across a small trail of blood dotting the snow. Not much further on, under a small bridge, we found an opened briefcase, its contents scatterd in the snow. Although different in age, Miki and I were like-minded enough to share a single set of Hardy Boys books, so our imaginations and willingness to get involved went into hyperdrive. We loaded the briefcase onto the sled and continued on to the Dixon (!) Nursery, from which we called the police…

…who didn’t come to talk to us there for nearly an hour because, as we found out in an impatient follow up phone call, they were in the midst of roll call. When they did arrive, they seemed interested in our find and story and took us back to the site of the briefcase dump. We then showed them the blood, several hiking minutes away. They then showed us the dead rabbit someone had shot with a BB gun and left.

Several days later, my mother called the police to find out what the final upshot of the briefcase had been. An insurance salesman, she was told, had parked his car on the bridge (But why? Miki and I wondered aloud and often for at least a day) and when he had returned to it, the contents were gone.

That was another ice age, in another place, and yet today’s glass city walk brings it back of a piece.

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2 Responses to “The world is glass”

  1. Sandy Says:

    Another technique for walking on ice: bend your knees as much as you comfortably can while keeping your weight just back of the center of your arch. It’s kind of slow and not very elegant, but it works. It’s how skaters balance when they’re moving forward. It does not work if you’re foolish enough to try crossing a patch of ice backwards.

  2. Ryan Deschamps Says:

    As an experienced Haligonian, I second the bend-your-knees method. It does two things: one prevents spills because you have better control, and two, it gives you alot more options for protecting your vitals if, in fact, you do slip.

    Also, if you slip, on your side is better than on your behind. And always, always wear mits and gloves.

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