Ice, Ice, Baby: Slice of life 16/31 #SOL20

I grew up in southern climes. My father was in the Air Force and we lived in Panama, Texas and California before we settled in South Carolina. Even my “far away” university was below the Mason-Dixon line. As a result, until I moved to Ottawa, I had little experience with seriously cold weather. I refused to agree to move here until I had visited in the winter. My then-boyfriend now-husband was so anxious about this that, when I arrived in mid-February, he met me at the airport, bundled me into a taxi, looked at me and asked, with absolute sincerity, “So, do you think you can handle the cold?” I said yes. This is what love will do to you – even if you’re a Southern Girl.

Ice ripples

I didn’t see snow fall until I was in the 5th grade. That summer, we had moved from California to South Carolina, not exactly a bastion of cold weather, but colder than what I knew. One day in February, someone yelled, “SNOW!” and we all ran to the window to see it until Mrs. Rish called us back in her quavering voice: “Sit down! Sit down, children! It’s not like you’ve never seen snow before.” I turned to her, eyes wide with wonder and said, “I haven’t.” Bless her for saying, “Well then, Mandy, you can stay there.” I pressed my face to the cold glass and watched in amazement for long minutes before I returned to my seat.

Ice near yoga class

You can imagine my first few winters in Ottawa. I had to learn everything anew, not least of which was how to dress myself – and then babies – for cold weather. None of the coats I owned were even close to warm enough. I did not have winter boots. I was pretty sure that no gloves in the world could keep my fingers warm in February. Sometimes I tried to stay inside for days, despite Andre’s gentle insistence that going outside at least once a day was healthy.

parking lot ice


Eventually, time and the kids got me outside. After all, I didn’t want to miss the fun of building snowmen or turning the back porch into an epic sledding ramp. When the boys started parent-child skating lessons, I went to the rink and tried to pretend that, like the other parents, I was mostly there to hold the kids up when, in fact, I was learning, too. Now I can lace skates – theirs and mine – stand up from a fall, and even race my kids down the frozen canal in February. I’ve come to love snowshoeing and have taken a ski lesson to get over my fear of downhill skiing. I still don’t love it, but I can get down a hill.

This icy dragon is breathing fire

The more I played outside in the winter, the more I got used to the cold. Sure, I wear hats and gloves starting in October and straight through to April, making “real” Canadians laugh, but in last year or two I’ve caught myself “just running to the car” in slippers & a bathrobe even when the temperature is well below zero (Celsius – think maybe in the 20s Fahrenheit). Yet none of this prepared me for my recent fascination with ice.

ice from below
Ice stalactites from a roof

Canadian kids have some built-in knowledge about ice. They know which patches are likely to be slippery and which ones they can careen across without a second thought. My children tear down the sidewalk, sure-footed, running ahead while I slide my feet tentatively across every potentially slick patch, always unsure of what is safe. I am not ice-savvy; I’m not sure I ever will be. Perhaps this is why I started examining the ice all around me as I walked. It was as if my brain concluded “If I can’t intuit things about ice, maybe I can observe my way into this important knowledge.”

Much to my children’s disgust, instead of becoming a savvy winter walker, I’ve slowed down even further. The more I look at the ice, the more I fall in love. These days, I stop on the sidewalk, pause in parking lots and wander through parks, looking at the ice the way I once looked at the falling snow, in absolute wonder at the unexpected beauty of winter.


31 thoughts on “Ice, Ice, Baby: Slice of life 16/31 #SOL20

  1. Gorgeous images and reflections! I lived at the equator for a couple of years and was fascinated by the sameness of every single day, split evenly into day and night with very little temperature difference between night and day. No seasons other than rainy and dry or various fruits—which puzzled me since I didn’t see a difference in temperature which usually marks planting and harvest. No “spring break.” When I returned to Michigan, I absolutely LOVED fall and winter again. I did not get one cold. I voluntarily sat in a 50 degree office until someone mentioned that they thought the heat might have gone out in that part of the school.

    Thanks for sharing this “fish out of water” post.


  2. Amanda, I am simply enamored with this reflection and the images you’ve shared. I’ve learned so much about you in this single post and once again find so many connection points. I love the contrasts you draw between yourself and your children, the sweet intimacy of you being welcomed to Canadian cold for the first time, the evolving fascination with ice in all its forms. From beginning to end, this is a perfect slice!


  3. This is such lovely writing and the pictures of various ice forms are like poetic expressions that support your words. You had me engrossed with your narrative and smiling at the “housecoat dash” – something well known to Northerners! This is a huge slice of loveliness for a new day!


  4. Ice is fascinating. It’s shapes and forms mesmerize me, but we don’t get ice here in Idaho like the ice I grew up w/ in Missouri. Even though that ice did much damage, I loved seeing it coat trees after an ice storm. And like you, I’ve grown to love the cold and look forward to shoveling snow. I always thought I’d want to retire in a tropical climate, but these days I’m drawn to the colder, frosty places. One of my destinations planned for the trip we were taking in April (now canceled) was to an ice bar in Oslo, Norway.


    1. I am surprised that Idaho is less icy than Missouri – shows how much I know. I don’t love shoveling (yet), but my husband and my kids actually enjoy it, so you give me hope.


  5. I loved reading this, outside with short sleeves on and a cup of iced tea. I doubt I could get used to cold weather, but your story is encouraging. Your fascination with ice and those images are inspiring. Can I pick one out to use for my Thursday “This Photo wants to be a Poem” post?


  6. I love the way your piece built up the anticipation for how your feelings about ice have changed from the start of your Canadian journey to the present time.

    “Sit down! Sit down, children! It’s not like you’ve never seen snow before.” I turned to her, eyes wide with wonder and said, “I haven’t.” Bless her for saying, “Well then, Mandy, you can stay there.”

    The use of this one quote is sheer brilliance as it said so much more than the few lines about the significance of this event in your life.

    May you keep finding beauty in the ice that is now a permanent fixture in your life.


    1. Thank you! Most of my ice pictures feel quiet to me (well, except maybe that dragon!) so I hesitated to put dialogue in here – but then, she let me watch the snow fall. That seemed worthy of inclusion!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. The images in this post are beautiful. So are your words. There is so much to know about ice and snow. I love that your husband gave you the amount of time between the plane and the taxi to decide if you could handle it. HAHA And smart of him to bring you here in February, not January. 🙂

    I grew up in a cold place and nothing could have prepared me for a -40 degree night.


  8. Your photos are beautiful (the dragon! Wow!) and I share your fascination with ice. I hadn’t realized until recent years how fascinating it is! I especially enjoy watching the geometric formation of ice on the river. It’s unbelievable! How cool that you are now a skier and a skater!


    1. Isn’t the dragon something?! And he was *right there*. I took a few more photos today on a hike – Now that I’ve started seeing how beautiful the ice is, I can’t stop!


    1. Interesting! I had forgotten that snowstorm seen (it’s been a while since I read the novel). And, in an odd coincidence, I poked into his site & he grew up in Ottawa – he even mentions many of the high schools around here in some of his writing!


  9. This is a lovely slice and I loved the pictures you posted as well! I cannot even fathom how difficult acclimating to Ottowa must have been!


    1. Having children helped with the acclimatization – I really did have to just throw myself into things. That said, I sometimes still feel completely out of my element – and I kind of insist that my husband do some of the less appealing winter chores.


  10. This is great and brought back memories. In college, one of my freshman roommates was from Hong Kong. He was very shy, even reclusive, and very studious. We barely saw him. But one day toward the end of November, it started snowing at around midnight. Chen came out of his room completely transformed. “It’s my first time seeing it, he said, and we took him outside. He was so amazed, We were all amazed to see him so amazed, and soon we were showing him all the things we did as kids, catching snow on our tongues, making snowballs. He stayed out with us long enough to actually talk for the first time, and long enough that we could take him traying on the big hill behind our dorm. This is just to say that your writing and photography are inspiring. Oh and, another Kate Messner book, The Seventh Wish, has a character who is crazy about ice on Lake Champlain. You probably need to buy it.


  11. A stunning post – a work of art! My favorite picture: the icy dragon breathing fire. I have never been to Canada but have seen photos of regions in the ice that look like something out of fairy tales. A friend from Michigan told me that sometimes when it’s really cold, fog crystallizes in the air and when the sun shines, they all turn colors and it’s like being in the midst of a rainbow. With your ice obsession, I can see you going to visit one of those ice hotels (a secret wish of mine).


    1. Thanks, Fran! In fact, I have been to an ice hotel (but only to visit, not to stay): it was COLD. And my children live for the moments when the fog crystallizes – or, like yesterday, when they can “see” the air because they open the door (wide!!) and let the cold outdoor air meet the warm indoor air & if the sun is just right they can see shadows of invisible currents on the floor. These are things I never experienced as a child, and they are astonishing.


  12. Thank you for this gorgeously-written piece. I love the way it flows from your childhood to seeing Ottawa for the first time, back to seeing snow for the first time, and back again to your fascination with ice (and your children’s take on said fascination). “I am not ice savvy: I am not sure I will ever be.” Love this line, and I love how you find the beauty in it, despite that. Beautiful photography too! I am reminded of a beautiful, little book called “The Hidden Messages in Water” by Masaru Emoto. Your post is just what I needed today.


    1. I just tried to get that book from our library – right now I am super-grateful for ebooks since they’ve closed the library down. Anyway, no dice. I’m going to either have to wait or order it. Hmm… we shall see how patient I am. (Ha – I already know the answer – not very!)

      Liked by 1 person

  13. You have totally persuaded me to see ice in a new light. I am definitely not sure-footed on it. The stunning photography narrated by your slices have opened my mind to see its peaceful and exquisite beauty. Thank you for this post; I needed it more than you can imagine.


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