Why I don’t wish to get ex­cited about ice­bergs

The Compass - - OPINION -

I hope all those bloody ice­bergs are melted time this. It’s early July as I scrib­ble and Dear­est Duck is em­ploy­ing her fem­i­nine wiles — namely, bak­ing batches of choco­late chip cook­ies — tempt­ing me to hie-deeho off to a dif­fer­ent bay to ogle ice­bergs.

“No, my Duck,” say I. “It’s a sunny day, why bring clouds?”

“Ah, come on, Harry,” says Dear­est Duck, pulling a loaded cookie sheet from the oven. “I’ll pack a lunch. We’ll find a scenic head­land, have a pic­nic and watch the ice­bergs drift south.”

“My Duck,” say I, “Most things I’d do for you even with­out a cookie bribe, but not this. Nay, not this, de­spite the heated cock­les of my heart.”

“Fine then,” she says, and huffs across the kitchen whence soon comes the sound of cook­ies tum­bling into the trash.

I know, I know. How can one old cur­mud­geon be so mis­er­able, not to take his Dear­est on an ex­cur­sion to some cliff or crag to watch in won­der as glacier calves float south to fated doom?

Easy. Ice­bergs do not at­tract me. In fact, they re­pel me, so much that I al­low my Duck to chuck my cook­ies.

Sundry tourists, both home­grown and for­eign, crowd look­out points on our eastern coast to “ooh” and “ahh” at the splen­dour of mas­sive chunks of ice — some the size of … oh, I don’t know, cathe­drals or some­thing — en­dan­ger­ing salt­wa­ter craft.

Every­one totes a de­vice, be it pocket cam­era, tri­pod cam­era, iPad, iPhone, video this or that ca­pa­ble of snap­ping pic­tures or record­ing the pass­ing of the icy be­he­moths from Green­land.

Like cloud gaz­ers who find ponies in the sky, those who stare at ice­bergs fancy the sea and sun have carved fishy shapes into the erod­ing bergs.

And quick as Granny caught the weasel, im­ages are up­loaded to iClouds and be­fore some crooked old grump can blurt an old-fash­ioned say­ing such as “Jack Robin­son,” Face­book pages are clogged with ice­bergs thick as the Arc­tic floes.

“Harry.” Dear­est Duck has re­turned to chas­tise me, a lin­ger­ing aroma of cook­ies on her apron. “Folks who read that, if they haven’t al­ready thrown the pages down, will think you’re Os­car the Grouch.” “Why?” say I. “I won­der?” says Dear­est Duck. “Al­low me to re­it­er­ate, my Duck.” By its very na­ture, ice is cold. Out here in the North At­lantic, on the bro­ken snout of North Amer­ica, warm summer days are scarce as chick­ens’ chop­pers. Sel­dom do we denizens of this chilly isle have op­por­tu­nity to wal­low in waves of so­lar heat.

Why then, should we cheer the moun­tain­ous ice that hunches its shoul­ders against the node-east wind, fur­ther cool­ing an al­ready chilly wind be­fore it blows ashore and like Emily Dick­in­son’s ter­ri­fy­ing snake in the grass leaves us feel­ing “zero at the bone”? “Harry, you’re just a grump.” “Also, my Duck, as you’ve of­ten sug­gested, I prob’ly still have en­trenched trauma re­gard­ing ice re­main­ing from the win­ter my fam­ily lived in the woods.”

“Saviour, spare us,” says Dear­est Duck leav­ing, trail­ing the wan­ing smell of cast-off cook­ies.

Ac­tu­ally, we didn’t live in the woods. Not quite. We lived in a shack on a wooded point two miles across the Arm from our reg­u­lar place of abode. A mere two miles, but in the days shortly be­fore Sput­nik I or­bited Earth, some­times an in­sur­mount­able dis­tance … es­pe­cially if the Arc­tic ice, shuffed by the frig­gin’ nodeeast wind, blew in and stogged the Arm.

The spring of the win­ter we lived on the point, the ice packed in early, block­ing ev­ery har­bour, cove and arm, ef­fec­tively ma­roon­ing us with our backs to a hin­ter­land of track­less for­est.

Food sup­plies ran low and couldn’t be re­plen­ished be­cause the ice jam­ming the Arm from shore to shore was too rot­ten to travel on.

Food was ra­tioned. The baby needed milk so all hands re­lin­quished their Car­na­tion and swal­lowed barky, switchel tea. The ice re­fused to budge. The last few spuds grew stalky and spongy. The ice re­fused to budge. The bot­tom of the flour was bare. The ice re­fused to budge. We starved to death. Ob­vi­ously we didn’t starve to death, but be­cause — p’raps — of that win­ter on the point, I’ve never played tourist to any form of ice.

“Ah, poor Harry,” surely is Dear­est Duck’s com­mis­er­a­tion. Again, I’ve lied. In some forms ice is dandy. In vodka and tonic, or used to cool a scald­ing cup of herbal tea, eh b’ys?

Thank you for read­ing.

bar­rel

Harold Wal­ters lives Hap­pily Ever Af­ter in Dunville, Pla­cen­tia Bay, in the only Cana­dian province with its own time zone. How cool is that? Reach him at gh­wal­ters663@gmail.com

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