On Christmas evening 2017, the temperature dropped below freezing here in New York. It hasn’t come close to rising above that since. Yet the night of Saturday, January 6th, perhaps the coldest night of them all, seemed to bring relief.
The wind laid down.
And within in a few hours the entire Morris Canal basin iced over. Plastic bags and dock lines were locked to the surface. A few pellets of dog pooh and cigarette butts littered the ice. It even locked the Manhattan ferry to the dock. But there really was hope.
The wind had blown almost constantly since the freeze arrived. It was relentless. Every conversation started with the wind and cold, moved to the President’s tweets, before returning to the cold and the wind.
It was against that backdropped that about 10 of us gathered on Zennora Saturday night for a chicken dinner. But there were rules:
- No one could discuss the President.
- No one could discuss the weather.
- And everyone had to read a passage from a book or a poem. They had to introduce it and explain why they selected it.
One person wrote and read two haikus and a limerick. Another person read a lengthy passage from Moby Dick. There were dragons and human-hunting tigers, pouty fish and a man with a destiny. Someone even read Thoreau.
When we first gathered that night, the water in the main channel was still mostly liquid. Within a couple of hours, it was solid.
We passed several hours, reading, discussing, drinking, and eating our way through the evening. And when we were done, everyone marveled at the ice.
Yet for a few hours, we were released from all that had cravenly demanded our attention in recent weeks,
The following morning, it took a solid hour to wash the dishes and when I finally popped my head through the companionway, the entire marina glistened like a rough cut stone. Pancakes of ice were wedged together, creating rounded ragged edges, reflecting bursts of sunlight. Flirty icicles draped themselves on dock lines until they were married with teardrops of ice collecting at the waterline.
And though the air temperature was in the single digits, it felt warmer.
Wind, as you know, turns cold into a dagger that first slices open layers of clothes and then plunges into the soul. Without the wind, the marina came alive. Passing strangers lifted their head and acknowledged each other. Boaters lingered outside and patted one another on the back.
At least that’s how it felt on Sunday, January 7th. It could be that I was lifted by discussions of the Golden Treasury, Owen Meany, the Pout-Pout fish, and a man from Nantucket, who could have been a whaler.
Or maybe it was just knowing the temperature should rise above freezing early Monday afternoon.