I've never seen it like this before. I find myself fascinated and curious and awed and horrified, all at the same time.
The thickening layer of ice has completely stopped the current. Or, at least, that's the way it seems on the surface.
I know that the current is still running free and wild and uninhibited, underneath, just as it is supposed to. But, on the outside, the water looks hard. Cold. Dead. Unable to support life.
There are no birds in the water or near the water. No ducks or gulls or heron diving for food. No birds in flight anywhere. An eerie quiet hangs in the air, broken only by the sound of an occasional gust of wind.
A comment from one of my neighbor caught me up short and stopped me dead in my tracks. "The Bay looks perfect," she said.
"Perfect?" I asked, when I caught my breath from the cold.
"Yes," she said. "Look at it. It's perfectly still. Like a photograph of itself."
I nodded my head, mostly because I didn't know what to say. Besides, she was right. It did look like a photograph of itself. Sort of the way a corpse looks in a casket. Not real. Perfectly still.
Sometimes, when I look out the window, I can hear in my head some of the words of Madonna's haunting song "Frozen":
You only see what your eyes want to seeI know a few people in my life who are like that. You probably do, too.
How can life be what you want it to be
You're frozen when your heart's not open
You're so consumed with how much you get
You waste your time with hate and regret
You're frozen when your heart's not open
There are people who are so consumed with regret and envy, or in the pursuit of something - some goal, some thing, some one - that their hearts harden like the ice on the Bay outside my window.
They are hypercritical of most everything. They have an internal critic who has been working overtime for years - laboring long hours for occasional, meager compensation - but never seems to tire or resign his/her duties.
You can usually tell them by their relentless quest for perfection: their homes are beautifully appointed, the lawns finely manicured, and their cars always washed. Their clothes are always freshly laundered and neatly pressed, every hair in place and for women, make up is always neatly applied.
Should you catch them on an off-day, they apologize profusely - almost to the point where you become as embarrassed as they are. Which, I suppose, is the point.
They are also a dead give away in the reception line at the end of church service.
I'm an avowed, self-confessed, unrepentant 'hugger'. I'm also not particularly fussy. I hug anybody, any time, any where.
Lots of people - in church, especially - are huggers. Some of them are GREAT huggers. Warm. Embracing, as it were. Enthusiastic. Joyful. Some practically melt in my arms. They seem to need the hug even more than I do. It's a beautiful thing.
I understand. Not everyone is a 'hugger'. Personal space is a delicate subject. People have been hurt by allowing someone too close - physically or emotionally.
Trust is a huge issue for many people - especially in the church. I respect that, watch for the cues and signs and keep a respectful distance.
Some are just awkward or shy - or just a little guarded - which they try to overcome, partly for themselves and party out of deference to me, but their bodies betray them.
They try to cover up with quick, light pats to the back. In an occasional fit of silliness, sometimes I'm tempted to burp. Others 'air kiss' while they hold your shoulders at a safe distance. Some just approach me with their hand out for a polite hand shake.
I appreciate them all, especially when they are honest expressions of who they are, or where they might be, emotionally, at that particular time.
Sometimes, I don't feel like hugging either. Happens to the best of us, from time to time. Even an enthusiastic hugger like me.
Those who are emotionally frozen feel more than awkward. They feel stiff. Hard. As cold as ice. Like they are taking a spoonful of medicine while holding their nose.
And some, well, some just skip around the back way and avoid the reception line entirely. We're all busy, important people, you see. Places to go. Things to do. People to meet. And others, well, others know they will see me later in the week, anyway. They can get their hug in then.
It's the ones who are frozen who concern me. I see the current of passion flowing underneath the surface. I know that there is a depth and rawness of emotion beyond the perfection of the exterior. I know there is so much more than what is visible to the eye.
I have come to believe that perfection is death. Life is far from perfect. We make messes of our lives. Love the wrong person. Get our hearts broken by those we thought loved us best. Hurt the very people we love the most.
That can be enough to turn anyone's heart cold.
I have come to know that there are seasons of the heart. Sometimes, winter comes, bringing and unexpected cold snap or blizzard - and catches us unaware. But, seasons change. There is always the hope of spring.
Even before that, there is the knowledge that the sun will return, bringing warmth enough to melt the ice and allow us to feel the currents of life stirring in our veins again.
Then our eyes will open and we will see life the way we want it to be. We can allow hate and regret to release itself to the flow of life, keeping what's good about the past - the lessons that couldn't have been learned any other way, the love we couldn't have known any other way - and bringing that into the future.
To dream. To risk. To dare.
I have also come to understand this: Hope is not a strategy. It is a state of being. It is the undercurrent of life that pushes away the ice until the sun's rays of a new season can begin to do its work.
I guess you could call this my Epiphany On Ice.
No one is more surprised than me. I thought I knew all this. I guess it takes being alone with God as S/he is revealed in nature to learn it in a new way.