Saturday, January 9, 2010

Frazils and Ice Fog

Two new weather concepts I have learned about this winter: frazils and ice fog. Frazils are the first stage in a river freezing over. Ice crystals called frazils begin to join together. At the “pancake” stage, seen in the picture above, the frazils begin to form round clusters. And eventually these little frazils wind up forming a solid sheet of ice across the river.

Ice fog comes when tiny crystals of ice have frozen in mid-air. This is common when temperatures are below -30 C, mostly in arctic regions; apparently Edmonton is close enough to an arctic region (it’s certainly cold enough) because we have it here from time to time.

The strong current of a river becomes immobile in a frozen sheet; the free and invisible air hangs heavy in a fog. It all begins slowly, on a much smaller scale. Frazils become frozen rivers; drops of mist become ice fog. The world is rolling, changing, pulsing along and somehow in the smallest molecules of water at the most unexpected times, things become solid.

This season of epiphany, I am thinking about the small beginnings of things—small beginnings that make big things or invisible things stop and be known by us. Like words become flesh, like one small star that pierced the Bethlehem sky: started small, made something solid, and meant that night would never be the same again.