Saturday, January 31, 2009

Swing, batter batter

So far, the best part of this long winter is knocking down the icicles. I do it with a bat; Leigh taught me how. I'd been wondering for about five years why she kept that red, wooden baseball bat in the bedroom. Burglars, I figured, although we live in the middle of nowhere, as they say. It'd have to be a weird and determined burglar, one set on stealing, say, lots of catfood (from Fargo) or, perhaps, Diet Coke (from Leigh). I've got nothing worth stealing unless someone was looking for letters from my friends, student papers, or a random collection of stones and/or bones. Weird and determined, for sure. But irrelevant, because the bat's purpose isn't to ward off a hypothetical thief. It's to knock down icicles. Not those pretty, freeze-pop kind of icicles that look good enough to pluck off the eaves and lick (like the ones in the photograph). I knock those off with a metal shovel, and when they fall they sound like bells. No, I'm talking about the ones that are as big as your leg, as big as your 6-year old, as big as you. An icicle that could kill the sorry body hunched below as it lets go its perch.

Icicles that big hang from the roof of our second storey -- bad ventilation, heat leakage, whatever; everyone around here's got the same problem -- and in order to remove them I have to climb onto the back of a futon, crank open a screenless window, balance on the windowsill, lean out a ways, and do my best to take a swing at the ice mass. It's a little tricky, somehow like hitting a pinata, not because I'm blindfolded, but because my range of motion is limited by a) the house; b) a wall of windows; and c) my questionable balance. One false move and I'm either breaking a window or breaking my back. "Try to hit it at its widest point," Leigh wisely advised. "Don't swing so much as poke." I've developed a sort of awkward, two-fisted, overhead swing slash poke slash hammering motion to knock them down.

Sometimes I give a preliminary tap -- the way actual batters might tap home plate before getting ready to swing. Then I get ready for the real hit... concentrate... aim... Cra-aa-aaaaack! I'd initially expected more resistance when I swatted, thought it'd be like hitting a wall with one's fist, but it's not like that. There is resistance -- the icicles are thick, and heavy -- but it's a subtle pause, and gives way almost instantly to a freefall that I wish took longer, wish could go in slow motion. The icicle tilts, sometimes breaks into two pieces, and for just a split second is falling, somehow glorious, somehow catching the light and thrilling. The glory is short-lived, as glory often is; the ice inevitably lands with a thud in a giant heap of snow. It sounds what I imagine a body would sound like in similar circumstances, and I'm always a little let down, a little dismayed when I've completed the task. Feels almost like I've killed something.

Icicle: a tapering mass of ice formed by the freezing of dripping water. The definition makes me happy. Even the spelling makes me happy. (Ask a roomful of third graders to spell the word and delight yourself for hours: eye sikle; ize sickels; I siggle, ayesikkels...)

So much pleasure... so why do I raise a bat to it?

1 comment:

  1. This is a beautiful piece with lovely images. It helps remind one to slow down in life. It seems to me that it can be terribly easy to overlook those creations that winter offers us. This section parallels your stories on fire so well because of the notion of things gained and lost. For instance, your words "there is beauty in damage, too, of course, and certain terrains thrive after a good burn" speak to those things that are, at once, seen as tragic(fire) or hazardous(icicles). These lines also remind one to open our eyes and minds to different ways of seeing, thinking; looking. One can look at something and see nothing. This piece is inspiring because it makes me want to look to see. I like, too, how Leigh has prepared you to prevail over the icicles. The juxtaposition of something so solid against something so fragile is beautiful. It is inevitable that the icicles will melt or abruptly taken down by a red bat (LOL) and in its depletion we can imagine how that too is a strange destruction of something beautiful! Thanks for sharing!!