The Alchemy of Water: Ice Magic Part 2

Winter on Goose Creek January ’14

Ice forms along the creek, clear as crystal glass, blue-green as a glacier. Fluted. Filigreed. Lacey. Cancellous.

How granular and rough it is here at the top of a rocky ledge; and just there in the shadow of the bluff, a smooth, flat sheet protects itself by reflecting the pale pastel light of a weak winter sun.

Ice buttons and balls, goblets and goblins form on the drab grasses at water’s edge, trimming the stream with bright translucent ornaments that are different each day. Air bubbles crawl downstream rodent-like under thin sheets of ice in a warren of liquid and crystal. From Slow Road Home ~ a Blue Ridge Book of Days.


And following, a bit of narrative about this image-left from Fragments from Floyd ~ Winter 2003

I could have driven to the house where it was warm. Instead, I followed the shaft of light that spilled through bare branches onto the creek bed beside the road a mile from home. There, as fate would have it, I discovered the Ice Goblin nursery.

You can never see them if you’re looking for them, and this is why few people know of them. They grow in unreachable places at the most intemperate of seasons, out of view.

But I did manage to get this one shot of four half-formed Ice Goblins, with broad, flat feet that help them walk on soft snow, and their stocky legs and knobby knees.

When I stopped the next day at the very same place, they had been birthed–fully formed and stalking the cold shadows of Goose Creek. The next week of warm December, they slipped unseen back into green-flowing waters.

But they’ll be back soon and you’ll know it. When, in an utter calm beside the fire, a shiver comes of a sudden: there’s an Ice Goblin near by.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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