As I drove North along Lake Champlain on Friday morning, I was ready to admit my mistake—I had written that Lake Champlain is not yet frozen over, leaving an empty stretch of water where ice-fishers and skiers should be—when I saw the trucks, shanties, and people spread across the ice. I smiled, happy to see I was wrong, until I looked ahead to open water, deep dark blue textured by the wind, and felt a small flip in my stomach. There is an empty stretch of water. My eyes shot back to the blue truck parked on the ice. Yes, it was still there, and all the bodies on the frozen part of the lake seemed patient and at ease as they watched their lines for bites. Though there were no skiers, though the lake is not completely frozen over, and though the car thermometer read 41°F, the ice fishers prove that winter has not conceded to spring just yet. There is still strength in the cold nights.
Today I take the dogs to the river, looking for ice. The Green River’s current is too strong for a solid sheet to form, but everywhere I look in the forest, crystals and long columns of glass appear. I slide my fingers along the cool smooth surfaces; I lean in close to see the way the ice connects with a quality of movement that makes it seem as though it has paused in the middle of dancing.
Down at the river, thin sheets of ice balance on rocks, adorning them like lace, and amidst the steady pulse of the water and quiet stillness of the ice, I feel the conflict of a winter caught between melting and freezing. There is no turmoil here, though, and I learn once again that opposites always coexist—beneath the ice there is always water, and with the stillness there is always energy expanding or contracting, but moving just the same. Sometimes these opposites are hidden, and sometimes they are in plain sight: fishermen on a half-frozen lake, a summer-green fern caught in ice. The question must not be do we look at them, but what do we do? Conflict and opposites will not go away, but I know from the river there is a way of living that bears witness without judgment, and a way that allows for change and consistency at once. So what do we do?
And then ask again, what do we do? The answers come one step at a time.