There was an ice storm yesterday, where Your Humble Blogger lives. I grew up in the desert, and despite having lived in New England for most of the last twenty-five years, I am still not used to the whole variety of winter weather we have.
Today, it’s sunny and the temperature is just a tad above freezing. I walked around the campus of the institution that employs me for a bit, looking at the trees.
Here’s the thing that happens in an ice storm, in case any of y’all are desert rats like YHB—ice forms around each individual branch and twig of the whole canopy. When the sun comes out, the trees glitter like electric lights. Tiny icicles hang from branches, catching light and refracting it. And as the sun warms the tree, if the temperature is at the right level of just-above-freezing, these little tubes of ice, wrapped around every leafless branch and twig, rather than melting into water and dripping to the ground, start to crack. They melt a little inside, so that they detach themselves from the branches they have been wrapped around, and then they lose their structural integrity and like a mold for a casting they break open. The tree will, every few seconds, give a shiver and shake down a glittering spray of miniscule (mostly) shards of ice, which, since the ground is also covered with a thin layer of hard ice, clatter and bounce before coming to rest, where they freeze in place.
There’s no purpose to this beauty. The tree is just fine if the ice completely melts and drips on to mushy ground, as it does when it’s a little warmer out. Or if the cold water falls as snow, which just sits on top of the tree, still pretty in its way, and then falls or is blown off without so much drama. No, it’s just a thing that happens to happen: in the right circumstances, the dead-looking tree forms a ridiculous glistening canopy of light, and then performs an odd and intermittent dance to its own rattling soundtrack, ending in a field of hard glittering bits and pieces of ice, frozen improbably into place.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,