We woke to a world encased in ice. Here in Canby it was twenty-seven degrees with a light freezing rain. A quick check of the television and the web revealed that most of the Portland metropolitan area would remain closed today.
As we drowsed through the next couple of hours we could, from time-to-time, hear the crunch crunch crunch of tires on ice. Traffic was infrequent.
At eight I called Jeff and we decided to cancel work at Custom Box Service. That done, I grabbed my camera and ventured outside.
It was like walking on a sheet of ice. What had been a thin rime yesterday was now nearly an inch thick. In some places the ice was thick enough that my steps did not break through the crust, but in most spots my footsteps created small craters with cracks that spiderwebbed outward.
The layer of ice on the magnolia caught my eye, and on the arborvitae. The daphne, too, was coated in ice (and may not survive), and the rosemary, and the rhododendrons, and the dogwood, and the maple. When I broke a piece of ice off a fern, a large piece of the plant broke off with it.
Our neighbor came outside and began to shovel his walk. Why? (He has been shoveling his walk for an hour-and-a-half now.) His dog sat with him, watching patiently.
I walked around the house, photographing icicles and frozen plants. Then I walked down the street, photographing the ice. The temperature increased perceptibly. A thin layer of water melted on top of the ice, and the footing became even more treacherous.
Some of the neighbors’ trees had been destroyed by the storm; the weight of the ice had become too much, and limbs had been ripped from tree trunks. I was admiring an tall hedge which, coated in ice, had dipped to the ground without breaking, when a man with a cigarette and a cup of coffee wandered down the street to join me.
“I ain’t seen nothing like this,” he said. I mentioned the storm of 1996. “Yeah, but that wasn’t nothing like this. I was in Lewiston, Idaho, for that storm. I was picking up paper at the potlach mill. My load was delayed, though. The floodwaters had swept away a herd of cattle and one of the damn things had got stuck in an intake someplace. Burned out a piece of equipment worth a hundred grand. Killed the cow. I had to wait at the mill an extra day, and the flood waters rose.
“Bunch of us were trapped in Lewiston. Truckdrivers. I wanted out of there, though. I’d had enough of that truckstop shit. We lined up at the only bridge out of town and we watched the river. It was so high that it was sweeping over the bridge. But every once in a while the guy in front would decide he could make it, so he’d take a chance and cross the bridge.
“When it was my turn, they told me not to go. ‘Don’t do it, man,’ they said, but I wanted out of there, so I just went. It was dicey, but I made it.”
Then, as I was walking home, I passed another fellow out walking on the ice. He was having trouble, slipping and sliding all over the place. He wasn’t taking ice-sized baby steps; he was taking abnormally long strides, and it wasn’t working. He nodded at me. “I’m not used to this shit,” he said. “I’m from Arizona.”
I laughed. “We’re not that used to it, either. This is a rare thing around here.”
I came back home and made myself some Abuelita (a brand of Mexican hot chocolate).
Update: It’s eleven. I just took the mail out, and the ice, as it begins to melt, is slick. Yikes. Twice, my right leg (and its bad knee) went shooting out. I’m staying inside the rest of the day, playing Nintendo.