Ice Storm

     On the first day of the ice storm I couldn’t leave the house. I tried to pick up the mail but fell on my butt after one tiny step onto the porch, even though I was leaning on the ice scraper. I slid toward the steps, then turned and crawled back into the house.
     Frozen rain and sleet had fallen all night, and were still falling as the dogs greeted me at the door, nose to nose.
     On Day 2 of the storm I got up before 3 a.m. and tore through legal reports like crazy, trying to post the Courthouse News page before an ice-laden tree crashed onto a telephone wire somewhere, laying me off for the day.
     Already 300,000 people in southern Vermont and New Hampshire had lost power – and Vermont has only 600,000 people. Towns just up the road to the west and to the north were wholly without electricity. People sought refuge in fire stations and churches. Body heat works. Freezing rain kept falling.
     The sun rose on the most beautiful deadly sight in nature. Every branch on every tree, every blade of grass was coated in glistening, transparent ice. Icy fog hung on the hills; it drifted through the glittering trees.
     And a steady tick tick tick of ice falling on the roof.
     Our power flickered but held. At noon the temperature rose to 33 degrees. O boy, I thought. Nothing can stop me from getting that mail now. I scraped ice from the porch in the slushy places – some patches were still too slick to handle – then picked my way slowly down the steep curvy driveway toward the mailbox.
     What a bonerhead. I hit ice at the curve and the only way to keep from falling back onto my skull was acceleration. With ridiculous, furious, mincing steps I teetered left and right, forward and back, holding a line toward the grass at the end of the curve. Made it. Traipsed down the ice-covered lawn, sidled across the driveway to the mailbox. Success! A bunch of goddam catalogues.
     By the time I’d climbed back to the front door the sky was clearing. The sun lit up the icy forest. And I could not refrain from doing something that would be either terrific or stupid. I went for a run in the icy woods.
     I changed into running gear and checked the thermometer – 36 – scraped sheet ice from the windshield and drove 6 miles, half of it on dirt, to the covered bridge by the Green River.
     Understand that there are no flat places in Vermont. You are forever surrounded by hills of mixed forest, occasional pastures in the low places, a few pastures they call high mowings, and creeks on the side of the road.
     Every single branch on every single tree in the surrounding mountains and forests glittered like diamonds. Looking into the sun, I saw a forest of glass; the opposite hillside was a forest of jewels.
     The steep dirt road was a gorgeous disaster, littered with glassy ice like Skid Row in a frozen Eden. I wove through broken branches of every imaginable size, from twiglets to monstrous branches bigger than my truck, every one of them glittering.
     Broken ice-laden branches hung from trees at every angle; they dangled over the road, onto the road, tangled up like pick-up-sticks, every one of them glittering in the sun, shimmering in shadows in the reflected icy light.
     Ice-covered trees had fallen in the forest, against one another, into the streams. A giant maple had fallen into a pond on the first day of the storm: it had broken in the middle and the pond iced over at the broken place.
     Just before the top of the hill a tree had snapped off 10 feet above the ground and fallen across the road, still attached – barely – to its jagged stump. I stopped and sized it up. I could go right, through the thick branches under the fat part of the tree and hope not to be crushed to death … or I could go left, over the top of the tree, and hope not to get tangled and have to wait like an idiot for a road crew, or someone, to rescue me.
     Idiocy or death? I chose idiocy. Bumps, thunks, skids, some grinding and scratching and I was through.
     The hill down to the Green River was steeper, littered with ice, broken boughs obstructing the road, busted branches of pine, birch and maple hanging from the trees, leaning at angles on the ground, dangling in the air – everything, everywhere, covered with glittering ice.
     I parked by the covered bridge and pulled Yak-Trax over my shoes, so I could stand upright, and set out to run. The Green River raged like a wild Western river, enormous whitecaps splashing up over boulders, whirlpools whirling, furious brown water breaking up fallen trees.
     The sun hung over the rim of the ice-laden forest to my right. It lit up the forested hillside to the left. When the wind blew, the entire forest became an icy wind chime. Ice fell from trees. Boughs and branches fell on every side, covered with glittering ice.
     I ran for 3 miles through the forest after the ice storm. I really can’t describe it.

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