You awake at midnight, heart pounding. Gunshot! It resounds through the woods like the crack of a rifle. Nervously you propel out of your warm flannel sheets to investigate.
Crack! Again it resounds. You open the deck door and listen.
Suddenly you know what it is.
Down on the bay, on cold December or January nights, the ice cracks like gunshot. The mystery of its forming and re-forming, its plates building pressure and rubbing against one another, often results in a booming sound. Sometime it peels sharp like gunshot. Other times it booms like canons.
A quarter mile away it can wake you from light sleep. If you’re sleeping deep, you’ll never hear it. If you happen to be prowling around the property like a night owl you’ll think fireworks crackle in the distance.
Until you remember. Ahhh….it’s the ice.
My ice fishing husband tells stories about the sounds ice makes. He says you can be sitting in the tent, minding your own fishing line, swapping tales with your fishing partner when…whirrrrrr!….crack….like a knife the sound of ice splitting screams from one side of the bay to the other.
He has witnessed a crack split the ice between himself and his fishing partner. In an instant. Like rumbling lightning and thunder.
I’m not kidding.
Some people refuse to ice fish because they know the ice is alive. And it talks.
I really don’t know the science of ice. Why it speaks the language it does. What that language means. I know it’s a language of pressure. Of two plates grinding together, or perhaps separating. Perhaps it’s the pressure of things forming and pushing apart simultaneously.
The first time I walked on deep clear ice I whimpered. Real fear almost refused to move the legs. “I…will…not…do…this,” I repeated through clenched teeth, although I kept moving with my husband’s encouragement. It wasn’t pleasant. It was downright scary.
Last winter when we fished out on ice over 220 feet of water, surrounded by dozens of other fishermen, no nervousness existed. Go figure. We humans, I always repeat, are strange creatures. As strange as ice.
I loved the way these stones protruded from the ice a couple mornings ago. The ice almost looks like water. Almost like you could place your hand in the freezing silky wetness. But, no. Ice covers the end of the Huron Bay, except for fringe edges. The ice is gaining in speed and intensity and bulk. Every day it thickens.
The fishermen talk of whitefish and trout and salmon and burbot and smelt. Green dots of ice tents sprinkle across the head of the Keweenaw Bay. My husband and our friend Nancy (one of his fishing partners) ask: “Are you coming ice fishing this year?”
I don’t know. Depends on how much the ice is talking. How many inches forms. How much I’ve been scared by the sound of ice booming at midnight…