It seems I’m not the only one who can’t see a day like today without feeling a little frisson of nameless dread. It’s something the Ice Storm of ’98 injected right into the base of the brain. The news folks brought out some archive audio for The Eight O’Clock Hour, with more due on All Before Five. It all came back into my head before dawn, while scraping ice off the windshield, trying to get in early to help with the school closings. Then it waxed throughout the morning as ice accumulated on the balsam fir out the office window, and it began to sag under the weight. Only when the tide turned to snow at noon did the oppressive feeling begin to lift.
A little over thirteen years later and the scars are still there–visible in the woods, where damaged trees are still dying, and the undergrowth is still choked with deadfall slowly rotting down to duff–and still detectable in my thinking, too. I have not been up on my roof in the wintertime since 1998, when I fell off it while trying to prevent it from collapsing under the tons of ice left by the storm. I don’t really know what I expected to accomplish using nothing but main might and a little hatchet.
And I find my ear is still tuned for that unmistakable crack and thump, accompanied by the bell-like tinkle of shattered ice, that means another tree has snapped off in the middle and has tumbled to the ground. When we finally left our home to its own devices, seeking safer shelter, another tree was coming down every thirty seconds. People often use the phrase, “I’ve never seen anything like it!” to express enthusiasm. But once you’ve been through a genuine natural disaster, it expresses something else entirely. Hope you’re all off the roads (and roofs) today, safe inside. It’s a good day to listen to the radio.