Non-FictionWinter2018

Theory of World Ice – Beth Peterson

1

In the spring of 2017, the United States of America withdraws from the Paris Climate Accord. Six weeks later, an iceberg the size of Delaware breaks off the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica. “There is no scientific consensus,” writes The New York Times, “over whether global warming is to blame.”

2

On a cool day in late May, a friend and I take a boat heading north towards the glacier.  My hair, though tied back, whips around me in the wind and so I cinch the hood of my rain jacket tighter.  I can feel the steady bob of the boat and hear, even over the sound of the engine, the waves slamming in the hull and onto the rocky shore. The air is damp, more from the wind than the occasional drizzle, but there is still a short-range view: rounded rocks and small villages rising from the water—wood against stone—all framed in the low sky beyond the boat.

Outside, on the deck where we sit, the wind hits hard and the water from the engines tunnels behind the ship in a wide white track, no matter what section of the fjord.  The track slopes and angles, blurs into a peninsula and is redrawn.  I follow with my eyes several hills of whitewater, each cresting for a few seconds before hurling then edging itself back into the sea, back into the geography of only memory.  

When the boat took off from the Bergen docks, a dozen other people lingered on the deck, wearing rain jackets and sweaters, some leaning on the boat’s long railing, others milling about, looking at the water or the clouds or the city through the screens of their cameras or phones.  A faded Norwegian flag flapped against its flagpole; the small orange rescue boat on the edge of the deck bounced up and down with the motion of the ship.  Some people were smoking, others taking photographs of the city skyline: glass and concrete buildings, tall narrow houses and the red tents that cover the local fish market getting smaller and smaller.  Some people waved though no one on the shore waved back.  

The boat continued on anyway, out of the rounded harbor, shouldered by rolling shoreline, by rows of shops and stone churches, by streets filled with houses and blocks of apartments, until it had left the city altogether.  It moved past rocky strands circled by seagulls and small wooden cottages with tile or stone roofs, mostly crisply painted despite the water and the wind that must be constant.  It blew its horn as a first and second smaller boat came into view, but then glided by them unaffected.  It turned under an almost-impossibly tall steel-cabled bridge, picked up speed and cast out, into the open sea.

3

In 1894, outside under the stars, Austrian engineer Hanns Hörbiger had a vision.  When he looked at the moon—its bright white surface shimmering in the night sky—he realized it was ice: the moon was made of ice.  The galaxies were built by ice—great pieces of ice—that shattered into stars and planets as they fell.  The deep matter of the universe, Hörbiger suddenly realized, was ice; the cause for evolution was ice; ice was creating new worlds and destroying others.

A short time later, Hörbiger dreamed that he was floating through space watching a pendulum swing farther and farther until it broke.  That pendulum was gravity. “I knew that Newton had been wrong,” Hörbiger would write, “and that the sun’s gravitational pull ceases to exist at three times the distance of Neptune.”  From this vision and this dream came Hörbiger’s Glazial-Kosmogonie, also called Welteislehre, or theory of world ice.  

Central to Hörbiger’s new theory was an alternate history of the universe where the solar system began when a massive star crashed into a much smaller waterlogged star.  From the force of the crash, pieces of the smaller star were flung out into space.  The water that star had been storing up eventually froze and became blocks of ice; the blocks of ice fell into a circle and formed that great spiraling galaxy that the rest of us knew to be the Milky Way.  

4

The boat we’re riding on—a passenger ferry—is a narrow, very white catamaran branded “Fjord1.”  It’s a two story-boat; there’s an open area on the second floor with a few booths and tables and then downstairs, luggage racks, a snack shop, and wide rows of plush seats, all facing forward, towards a computerized map of the voyage.  The ferry is lined in windows and a few people follow the water through them, but most seem to talk or work or read or sleep.  

The ferry is always part-tourists, part-locals.  This day, there are maybe sixty or seventy passengers including a small group of schoolchildren, lots of older adults and a few scattered young people like ourselves. We’ve taken the early boat—one of only two daily ferry departures—and it’s a weekday which usually means fewer travelers and more locals on board; likely, my friend and I are the only ones making our way, this cold day, to the glacier.  

The ferry passes under one high bridge, then a second, stops at one tiny port and another; as the degrees of color change from cityscape to rock island villages, the rest of the passengers leave the deck to go inside, one and then a few, at a time.   

I like riding the ferries; my first summer in Norway, my friends had a little red hatchback car that we drove up and down the mountains, six of us packed into five seats or sometimes seven or eight of us if someone rode knees up in the trunk, against the lined glass of the sloping back window.  It was my second summer in Norway that I discovered the ferries.  I was on my own that year, made my way myself from one airport and bus to another, through the city, past the stone streets and wooden houses and green gardens and government buildings and market tents to the edge of the Bergen docks.  I got on the ferry that summer by myself too and felt—as the waves swelled and we set off into them, a single boat on all the water of the world—awake for the first time in months.  

5

Ice is mostly made out of the same basic molecules—hydrogen and oxygen in a frozen state—but there are still several different types of ice: ice disks, ice pellets, shelf ice, candle ice, ice dams, aufeis—ice in stream beds—and various molecular forms of all of this ice.  The most regular form of ice is iceh or hexagonal ice, when liquid freezes to below zero degrees Celsius.  Ice changes, though, depending on temperature and pressure.  The ice found on one side of a glacier in Norway may be different even than the ice found on the other.  

Whatever the type of ice, when hydrogen bonds begin to break, ice always melts into liquid water.  I see a diagram of this online: the hydrogen molecules as small red dots, growing like branches from circles of oxygen.  The ice in the diagram is fixed, in neat, perfectly shaped molecule hexagons.  In the diagram for liquid water, however, the hydrogen branches are randomly placed, blue and red circles moving in dizzying motion.

6

Early into the ferry ride, I meet a South African graduate student from Cape Town named Luke.  My friend strikes up a conversation with him as we board the metal gangway from the Bergen city center to the small ship.  The three of us are the only ones who have carried expedition backpacks onto the boat and the only ones who will later choose to sit outside during the cold, several-hour ride.  We can see the long chop of the white wake from where we sit, on the floor—white painted second-story deck—our legs stretched out toward the water, our backs firm against the outside wall of the ship’s cabin.

After some small talk about the ferry ride, Luke explained he was studying oceanography at the University of Cape Town, where he’d been as an undergraduate and then returned.  He’d had a gap year too, spent it working as a crewmember aboard a small sailboat from South Africa.  

Luke was supposed to be traveling to Svalbard on this trip, an Arctic island between Norway and Iceland that is mostly used for research into far northern plants and animals and climate.  The scientist he was working with canceled at the last minute, though, and so instead of taking one of the twice-a-week flights north, he had come to Bergen and now was floating around the country, seeing glaciers and watching World Cup soccer games in local pubs for six weeks until he went back to his life and his research in South Africa.

“Why did he cancel?” I ask Luke after chatting for a few minutes about his rearranged plans and scramble to find places to stay and things to see.

“I don’t know,” Luke says, shaking his head, “It happens sometimes.”  

He pulls his hooded sweatshirt over his short brown hair and broad thin frame as we talk, layering a fleece and a rain jacket the same way I have.  Luke is friendly and like several of my friends abroad, also charmingly boyish.  He asks my friend and I about Chicago and Norway and why we’re traveling here.

My friend rummages through her backpack and pulls out a small red-and-blue glass gnome.  “I’m going to take pictures with this guy,” she replies.  Luke laughs.

For a while, we compare notes about our travels: broken-down trains, missed flights, the expensive and bland food we’d all been eating, the best spots to camp and hike.  When my friend eventually goes off to take photographs from some other position on the boat, Luke and I stay and sit quietly, eating sandwiches and watching the long expanse of sea distend and surge.

7

Norway’s fjords—like its land—are glacial built, remnants of the last major Ice Age.  The whole of Scandinavia was cast in those years in a sheet of ice, up to 3000 meters thick over 6,600,000 kilometers of land.  That ice sheet—the Scandinavian Ice Sheet—is said to have originated in Norway but then to have stretched throughout much of northern Europe, from Russia to the UK and Germany.  

As the ice moved, it carved deep valleys and steep cliffs.  When it retreated many years later, sea filled in valleys, creating clusters of long, deep fjords beside both Norway’s low rocky shores and its high barely-inland mountains, steeped in spruce and pine.  The land, scientists say, is still rebounding from the weight of the ice, rising from the water several millimeters a year.

Many years later, another ice age came: the Little Ice Age, a period between the 1300s and 1800s when more snow fell in the winters than melted in the summers.  Much of Northern Europe cooled during that period.  The canals in the Netherlands are famed to have frozen then, as did London’s River Thames, more than twenty times.  In Dutch artist Abraham Hondius’ 1677 oil painting of the Thames, people are shown walking and skating across the frozen river under a clouded sky.  “Frost fairs” were held on the ice; one time an elephant was led across the river.  In France, when the ice threatened to take over the Arve Valley, exorcists were brought in to call off the spirit of the advancing glacier.  A forty-meter high wall of snow came anyway.

8

“Professors were molested in the streets,” Pauwels and Bergier write about the tactics of Hanns Hörbiger’s world ice proponents, “the directors of scientific institutes were bombarded with leaflets, ‘When we have won, you and your like will be begging in the gutter.’  Businessmen and heads of firms before engaging an employee made him or her sign a declaration saying, ‘I swear I believe in the theory of eternal ice.’” Other ice disciples were said to have showed up at traditional astronomy lectures shouting, “Out with astronomical orthodoxy!  Give us Hörbiger!”

Hörbiger’s was a world that followed its own enticing logic. The movement created its own archives, its own genealogies and even a newspaper, The Key to World Events; ice was a meta-narrative, Hörbiger believed, that could re-start science on non-sectarian terms. And it was with no small sense of consolation that scientists, artists and philosophers took up cosmic ice theory, not many years after the scientific revolution and not many years before much of the world would break out in a series of world wars over land and power and philosophical regimes.

“Modern Science seems to foster a desire for a final synthesis, a well formed formula of the world that could eliminate the fragmentation of contemporary knowledge and its isolation within various academic disciplines,” German scientist and natural historian Max Benzen wrote in 1934.  “This metaphysical desire is expressed in two scientific ventures of the time: Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Hanns Hörbiger’s Theory of Cosmic Ice.”  

9

Both in Norway and around the world, it seemed, for a time, ice might be limitless.  In the 1880s—the same years my great-great grandparents lived in Norway—ice was cut in chunks off the edge Norwegian glaciers to ship all over Europe for cooling.

The idea had first been come upon by an American, Frederic Tudor of the Tudor Ice Company.  On a visit to the Caribbean, Tudor was surprised by the stifling heat and wished, as he did back home in Massachusetts, he might cut a piece of ice from his family pond to cool himself or even just a drink.

In 1806, at the age of 23, Tudor hired a boat called “The Favorite,” loaded it with ice and set off for the island of Martinique, 2000 miles from Massachusetts.  Eventually, Tudor sent ice to Charleston, Calcutta, Savannah, Havana and a host of other southern cities.  Workers cut this ice from Fresh Pond, Doleful Pond, Spy Pond, Sandy Pond, Horn Pond, Spot Pond, and during the years when a young naturalist named Henry Thoreau was living in the woods, from a 61-acre lake in Concord Massachusetts called Walden Pond.

10

A couple of hours into the trip, the wind picks up again.  I hold my hat on with my hand.  The views from the boat become even more impressive, though, as the ride goes along, and I don’t want to see it all through glass: the granite ridges rounding, then dropping straight off into the edge of water, the long patches of snow, waterfalls and ice-fed rivers, small villages, and then even glimpses of the glacier.  

Just past the mountains, the clouds are low and thick, obscuring what’s behind them, darkening even the early afternoon sky, making the familiar route look distant and strange.  When the rain starts, it hits the boat sideways, pooling along the lower railing and running down the deck in dozens of streams, towards the back of the boat. My pant-legs beginning to soak through, I pull my legs towards my chest and drape the plastic rain cover from my backpack over them.

Luke and my friend and I talk about Norway and he asks why I got interested in glaciers. “I’m not sure,” I tell him, “but I want to see them while they’re still here.”  

“You know,” Luke says after awhile, nodding toward the fjord “all this used to be ice.  The ice is compacted,” he continues, “something like clear plastic.  If you were down at the bottom of a glacier, you could look through it like a window.”  

I lean back against the boat’s side, while he is still talking, and trace the wet white deck with my gloved hand.  As he mentions something about carbon dioxide and rising water levels, I watch the misted water, just beyond my feet, in motion, rolling.  For the first time ever, I think, as I look out at the water, of all the hydrogen bonds in that sea breaking—from ice to liquid water—and I wonder if they made noise as they did; I imagine the glacial ice caps that were once there, polished: smooth as pool balls, as pressed flowers.

11

In the early 1990s, Norway’s glaciers appeared to be growing.  Though most of the world’s ice was shrinking, in those years, some of Norway’s glaciers experienced higher snowfall than normal and actually began to expand.  “Glaciers in Norway have begun to creep down from their mountain strongholds,” a 1990 news article in the Los Angeles Times noted of Norway’s Briksdaslbreen Glacier “in apparent defiance of global warming.”  

I see a chart of glacier cumulative front variation—or changing lengths—prepared by scientists at the University of Bergen.  In the 1990s—and in some cases, as early as the 1950s—some of the glacier lengths did began to rise.  

By the 2000s, though, every single one of Norway’s glacier lengths had dropped, like most of the glaciers worldwide.  At last count, France’s Mer de Glace glacier has retreated 2300 meters. Norway’s Rembesdalsskaka has retreated two kilometers.  In a few months alone, the Briksdalsbreen glacier in Norway retreated 130 meters, far enough that it began to break off of the rest of the ice.

12

In the spring of 2017, two months before the Larsen C Ice Shelf splits, The New York Times features a three-part series of “Antarctic Dispatches” titled, “Miles of Ice Collapsing Into the Sea,” “Looming Floods, Threatened Cities” and “Racing to Find Answers in the Ice.”  

In the first of those dispatches, there’s an online moving map of Antartica’s ice. Blue lines of ice in that map flow down the Ronne Ice Shelf, the Brunt Ice Shelf, the Amery Ice Shelf, the Shackleton Ice Shelf, the Ross Ice Shelf, the Getz Ice Shelf, and not far from the Cape of Disappointment, down the Larsen Ice Shelf.  Even when I set my computer down and stand up to get a drink, I can see, in the distance, nearly every part of the map moving towards the sea.  

“The acceleration,” The New York Times writes, just below its moving map of receding glacial ice, “is making some scientists fear that Antarctica’s ice sheet may have entered the early stages of an unstoppable disintegration.”

13

When the ice began to melt, people began to find things in the place where it once was.  On September 19, 1991, Erika and Helmut Simon, German climbers visiting the Alps, were hiking Mount Finailspitze near the Austria-Italian border when they noticed a shoulder and then a skull protruding from the ice, half in the open, half-buried, facedown.  Assuming it was a recent death, Austrian officials came back four days later, chipping the body out of the ice with jack hammers, pick axes and metal shovels.  

There was some clothing made of skin near the body, strange tattoos on its right knee, left calf and spine and a cloak of woven grass.  Its forehead was partially decomposed, but it still had hair and a dagger and a copper axe.  When the body was taken back to a university morgue, it was dated to be 5,200 years old: Europe’s oldest mummy.  They named him Otzi, after the Otz valley where he was discovered.

14

In 2002, glaciologist Lonnie Thompson, hiking near the edge of a receding glacier in Peru, found a plant that was 5,200 years old, the same age as Otzi.  This suggests, he writes, “that the present warming and associated glacier retreat are unprecedented in some areas for at least 5,200 years.”

15

In August of 2004, a local mountain guide, Maurizio Vicenzi, found the mummified bodies of three soldiers, hanging upside down from an ice wall, near San Matteo, Italy: soldiers—it was soon decided—who had fought in the first World War.  A love letter was found in those same mountains and a soldier’s diary.  A year later, Vicenzi again made a find; this time an entire wooden cabin emerged from underneath the ice.  

16

In the summer of 2006, in a melting Norwegian glacier, a leather shoe was found that dated back to the Bronze Age.  

17

In August of 2010, the bodies of a friend-of-a-friend, Katie Nolan, and her climbing partner, Anthony Vietti, were recovered from the Reid Glacier in Oregon’s Mount Hood, eight months after they went missing, once the warmer weather had melted the snow enough to see them there, suspended in time.   

18

I first hear about Hanns Hörbiger and his theory of world ice in a lecture sponsored by my university.  The lecture is put on by another department, but a friend sends me the dark, art deco styled flyer with a note, “Ice: maybe you’d be interested?”  On the left side of the flyer, there is a graphic of swirling cosmos in a black background; on the right, the title, “Counter-Science: The World Ice Movement’s Cosmic Visions and its Rise to Fame (1894-1945)” as well as another image, perhaps a book cover, this time with an astronomical dial, yellow planets aligned but a triangular mass of particles, spreading out from the sun.  

Ironically, the lecture is canceled for the rare heavy dumping of spring snow in Missouri, but when it’s rescheduled, I tell my students about it and let them out of class early so that they can attend.  One of my students does attend; he, five other people and I show up in a room built for forty or fifty, long, rows of seats all sloping towards a podium and screen in the front.  

I take furious notes; I tape the talk on my phone. I try to find an English translation of the Theory of Cosmic Ice and spend an afternoon in the stacks of our university library, looking for critical articles or historical newspapers that mention Hörbiger.  After hours of searching, though, I only find one fact not covered by the lecture.  Hörbiger thought even the Northern Lights could be explained by ice: maybe cosmic ice dust, maybe as one writer described Hörbiger’s thinking, “distant glaciers reflecting the sun.”  

That and I read somewhere that Hanns Hörbiger is said to have called his new world theory “the astronomy of the invisible.”  

19

We’ve made it through most of the Sognefjord—seen several of its icy plumes—when we round a bend and the ferry begins slowly aiming towards a landside dock, covered in a row of black, half-blown tires.  It’s Luke’s stop; he’s getting off the boat before we do, taking a railroad named Flam—one of the steepest trains in the world—to a high mountain village, then coming back the same way again. We walk Luke down to pick up his luggage and wave at him as he disembarks.

Soon we disembark too, hoisting our backpacks off the gangway and onto a still-wet dock as the Fjord1 speeds away in the distance.  

My friend will meet Luke once more, later in the summer, at a bar in Bergen for a drink and to watch a soccer match.  I won’t see him, though I will see his name again and again in the many years to come as I look through articles and research statements on ice and CO2, on blue whales in the Arctic and on global warming and carbon and oceans.  I will think of him when I read, back home, six years later, a new oceanography study that has found the places where glaciers melt into fjords may be the nosiest spots in the ocean.

20

When we arrive at the glacier, it’s too late to hike and so we camp overnight, in view of the ice but not quite at it.  The next morning, the wind has settled into the valley; I can feel it from the blacktop parking lot where a local bus dropped me and two other passengers—teachers from California—off, rustling the sleeves of my jacket, pulsating against my already-chapped face.  My friend had traveled further and so I was on my own this day, making my way towards the glacial ice.

“Mind if we join you?” one of the teachers asks as we get off the bus, pointing towards the quickly sloping trail ahead.

“Not at all,” I reply.  As we begin down the stony footpath, I talk with them for a little while about our lives and jobs and the different mountains that we’ve hiked.  Eventually, though, they fall a few paces behind and I continue on in silence, pulled forward through the low canopy of dark branches by the steady sounds of the moving air and my own boots striking ground.  I walk over rocks and brush, past trees whose shadows are almost smaller than my own but glance still off the wet ground in a thicket of movement.  I watch the shapes as I walk: thin rods of darkness interlocking and then suddenly splitting, letting in pieces of air and light.  The path changes with them too, sometimes small pieces of gravel, sometimes bare ground, sometimes long stretches of slick rock.

I walk over several small streams—part-ice, part water—hike up and down and around wind-washed boulders, some smooth, some patterned with winding orange and gray striations.  I climb a single set of wooden steps onto a wide boardwalk that the very next time I visit the glacier, will be completely washed out, smashed up by spring flooding or a winter storm or maybe just the regular beat of wind through the valley.  

I follow the pier-like bleached wood onward, up and up toward a long ledge of rock, towards spots of sun falling from the gossamer sky onto the snow-covered mountain in the distance.  There is a metal sign about walking on the glacier at your own risk somewhere past the wood and a field of rocks, mostly smooth, some small enough to be held in a single hand, but others as wide as ponds or rivers.  High on both sides of the expanse of rock are snowy hills—perhaps mountains, I’m not sure—treeless but mossy, ascending like a frozen sea swell, high enough I cannot see beyond them.

I pass quickly across level surfaces, steady my hands and feet along the smaller piles of rock.  I listen to the path shift under the weight of my body. There are no animals and no other people, nothing breathing but the land ahead and behind and the couple from California.  The distance between me and them grows and I let it, though I stay always in earshot.  As they fall further and further behind, I clamber over one small ledge and another until finally, I’m there, at the farthest edge of the glacier.

Snow walls rise a few stories above the broad flat rock where I stand; they gather in apartment-sized drifts, blown like the foam cresting on waves, like sand on dunes.  Cirrus clouds perch overhead and a scattering of light gleams off the steep surface of the ice, fills it up like a glass.  In places, that light is diffused—shades of sun swept up into thick currents of snow—but in other spots, the light is sharp and clear.  Still, even from a distance and even in all that light, I can see that the ice is less like a mirror and more like a cratered moon, like the rounded, scarred underside of my own hand.

I move closer—five or ten yards—until I’m close enough to make out individual grains of ice, dense and compressed but still glinting.  There’s a tunnel ahead, wet and rounded, and sheer walls of snow, streaked with small bits of sediment, thousands of them. It’s indigo—the blue inside that tunnel—not aqua, not robin’s egg, not cobalt, not violet.  It’s urgently blue, luminescent.  It’s the blue of the fjord from a plane’s window, the blue of an almost-night sky, the blue of the earth as viewed from some distant constellation.

It’s a blue I’ve seen before, at night, in a Puerto Rican bay, when hundreds of dinoflagellates circled my kayak, flashing neon against a dusky sky.  The sky at the glacier is not dusky; it’s a hazy white, but the ice is the same: unexpectedly blue.  And in the same way I thought of cupping my hand through the water in the ocean, here too I suddenly have an urge to touch the blue, as if I might take it in, might hold onto the color and the moment, absorb it into my own skin.  

I walk forward and reach out my hand, but at the last second stop myself and pull my hand back, remember how even one warm body can change a landscape.

I step away from the glacier and walk a few paces down the mountain.  Wind pulls at my hood and seeps through my thin jacket again.  I can hear the couple from California now; they’ve moved closer and are taking photographs of each other and the ice.  They’re talking though the noise of their voices is muted even in the short distance between us.

It takes me awhile to decipher what the other noise I hear is.  It’s steady and in the background, pushing against the now-loud wind, the sound of my new friends and the flapping of my own backpack and jacket against my shirt and my bare arms.  It’s hollow and constant and coming from somewhere deep below where I stand, the sound of the something thrown against ice walls, pummeling through the ground, dashing against the granite.

There on the edge of the glacial ice is the sound of water rushing.

21

A few months before my first trip to Norway, I went on a boat to see other glaciers, that time to Alaska.  It was a cruise ship then and I was on it with my parents, my brother, his wife and his in-laws.  I was sleeping for ten days in a tiny, shared room, on a sofa that did not pull out.  I was so cold that on the first stop of the trip, I had to buy another jacket.  There were hot tubs and swimming pools on the ship—probably remnants of some other time when the boat sailed in a different season or a warmer place—but I never once saw them used.  The towns the cruise ship docked at weren’t even real towns but ports staffed by cruise ship employees eager to take money for excursions or mailed-in trinkets.  I learned this one day, walking past the port, a few miles to the real town, a town where there were no trinket shops and where a grizzly bear would later that afternoon be reported roaming the streets.

What I did see from that ship were shards of ice, floating in the water like winter salt on a dark road.  And one night, standing on the top deck, I watched a huge sheet of ice from the side of a glacier crack and hit the surface of the water, the snow around it rising like gunpowder.  Later I’d watch a video of the ice breaking, or what I assumed was the same glacier breaking by the date and time stamp.  In the background of that video, when all that ice came down, people clapped and cheered.

22

Forty years after its introduction, Hanns Hörbiger’s theory—Welteislehre, or Theory of World Ice—would be discredited by even its staunchest supporters.  Hörbiger’s ideas, in that time, had gotten tied up with bad politics and bad leaders, but most of all, despite Hörbiger’s best efforts, the larger public didn’t believe ice could ever be all that important.

23

In the months after I leave Norway, I will replay, over and over, the video from the cruise ship of the glacier cracking.  I will imagine, as I watch, the underwater shifting of ice, huge panes of ice, like windows, splitting off into hundreds of small pieces.  Though I will not know what this would sound like in liquid water, I will reason that there still might be a brief moment of calm and then a terrible crash.  And then—as I will remember a line from an essay I once read saying—the world is made and unmade.  I will wonder if all that ice—all that noise—was simply absorbed or if for a few brief moments, the pieces of it fragmented and fell, if it became thousands of tiny stars, cosmic dust.  

24

No ice breaks off the day I hike the glacier in Norway, though a few years later, in approximately the same spot where I that day had stood, a massive piece will cave—or calve, as they call it—swallowing the parents of a young boy.

 


 

Author Bio: A wilderness guide before she began writing, Beth Peterson has an MFA from the University of Wyoming and a PhD in creative writing and literature from the University of Missouri. Her essays have appeared in Fourth Genre, Post Road, River Teeth, Passages North, the Mid-American Review, The Pinch, and other publications. She lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan where she teaches nonfiction in Grand Valley State University’s writing program. She’s currently at work on her first book of lyric essays about European poets, philosophers, scientists and the idea of disappearance. 

The author: zlis@iastate.edu