These branching forms are perhaps the first ice formations I noticed, at the lake’s edge in early winter a few years ago. Every time I see them, I think of cities developing along radial transit lines, so many iterations of the world we might have, like video game maps randomly generated.

I learned, with my adrenaline suddenly spiking, that they appear in the middle of perfectly safe frozen lakes too. The bit where it looks clear, as if your foot (or you!) might go straight through is an idiosyncrasy of this particular ice forming process. Be still, my beating heart!

Out on the lake, I’ve started noticing a crop of them with varied nuclei: bubbles, branches, an embryonic and amniotic foggy mass. And suddenly, with tiny bubbles surrounding them like countless stars, they’re galaxies.

I’ve yet to convince a friend to join me for the solitude of the center of the lake, where the temperature drops and the winds pick up, where the squeak of ice underfoot is sometimes met by the thunderous and displaced groans or the alien gurgling whistles of the body of living ice. The further you walk from shore, the closer you get to everything unexplainable finding its voice.

We’re not often in settings that push us into mystery in quite this way, to have the heft and weave of matter made so tangible. If this were a fairy tale, it’d be no surprise that this beauty burns, guards itself against being known, growls low, bites like frost with teeth sharp as snow.



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