Understanding Ice.

Caspian Lake, Greensboro, Vermont

In the late afternoon, on a day just a little above zero, I walk through the woods down to edge of the lake. I come out of the woods where Porter Brook feeds into the lake, and the ice there, despite the cold, looks thinnish. There’s no one around at all. In the summer, that stretch of beach is noisy with vacationers. But now, even not a crow appears.

The post-holiday surge of Covid rages around us. These are not the cheeriest of days. My father, sister, nephew, and I — triangulated around the United States — decide to read and virtually converse about Benjamin Labatut’s When We Cease To Understand the World — in essence, the perfect title for our times.

Live in New England long enough, and you crave the return of ice, the experience of cold and clean winter, the turning around of seasons. The ice will pass, too. Cold, I crouch at the ice’s edge. A squirrel skitters out of the hemlocks and chitters at me before scampering off. Then it’s just me for a moment, and all that sky and the mysteries of the frozen lake. In January, the days give cold and a few extra minutes of sunlight….

Here’s the opening lines of Labatut’s book:

In a medical examination on the eve of the Nuremburg Trials, the doctors found the nails of Hermann Göring’s fingers and toes stained a furious red, the consequence of his addiction to dihydrocodeine, an analgesic of which he took more than one hundred pills a day. William Burroughs described it as similar to heroin, twice as strong as codeine, but with a wired coke-like edge, so the North American doctors felt obliged to cure Göring of his dependency before allowing him to stand before the court. This was not easy. When the Allied forces caught him, the Nazi leader was dragging a suitcase with more than twenty thousand doses, practically all that remained of Germany’s production of the drug at the end of the Second World War. His addiction was far from exceptional, for virtually everyone in the Wehrmacht received Pervitin as part of their rations, methamphetamine tablets that the troopers used to stay awake for weeks on end, fighting in a deranged state, alternating between manic furore and nightmarish stupor, with overexertion leading many to suffer attacks of irrepressible euphoria.

14 thoughts on “Understanding Ice.

  1. I have ceased to understand the world. Gripping myself to attempt to read Labatut’s book. Feeling trepidation after reading the excerpt you included, like possibly stepping onto thin ice….

  2. I have to disagree with you this time. I have lived in the NEK most of my life and there are plenty of us who do not look forward to the ice. Sure, members of my family are thrilled when they can head to South Bay and tease out some Northern Pike, but they would still prefer the summer days.
    Myself, not someone who wants to be out on frozen waterways, and too poor to enjoy the local alpine attractions, I would prefer not to need to bring out fresh (thawed) water to my barnyard several times a day. I would prefer the languid afternoons of summer at the beach or sun beating down mornings in the gardens.
    But you do you, and I’ll do me.

    • I really appreciate this comment. Actually, I don’t always relish ice, either, and I Iived for years in a house that was so cold the olive oil wouldn’t pour out of the bottle. But I also lived in Washington State as a graduate student, and, weirdly, I really missed the dramatic seasonal change. This December was also so weirdly warm in Vermont. I definitely worry about climate change, but, on the other hand, it was an incredibly beautiful and more bearable December, too…..

  3. A sensitive child learns to numb and I think so many who wish to see the Nazis as monsters would be angry at this thought. I only know when I did my opening year of psychological astrology in London, astrologer LIz Greene in exploring the chart energies of some of the most unfeeling Nazis commented about the soft energies there that seemed corrupted a post on the Nazis and Ice a while back I will try to find it .. but all pain starts somewhere and numbing it is what people do when they just do not find another way..

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