Ice in Transition


Boyne City, Michigan, U.S.A. – March 2007

If I stand real still and silent, I can hear the ice break on the lake. It is a brutal snap that reverberates. I flinch. It sounds like breaking bones. The silent inertia of winter is fading. Soon it will be time to set off once again. My stepfather, littlest sister, and her children come down to the shore. Their voices and footsteps crunching on the thawing sand drown out the ice’s transformation.


I’ve been hibernating in the land of my birth. Once again in transition. The South Pacific is now a memory. The possible paths ahead have merged. The destination will be Poland. Apprehension has taken the form of nausea. What if I’ve made a terrible mistake? Will my husband decide that I’m not worth the risk of the unknown? There is no going back.

A few weeks ago, during the darkest and coldest time, I had a dream. I was staring up at a murky sky. A black bird – a crow or a raven – circled overhead. It suddenly flew down at me, directly into my liver. I felt a jolt of pure energy. And all around me were spirits. They jostled each other to get a closer look, as if I were some long-awaited newcomer. I told an acquaintance who knows about such things. Her reaction was grave. I knew what it meant, even before she told me. It’s a very clear death omen. I’ve been aware that my liver is fragile. But the liver is also the center of anger. Maybe it has something to do with that, we agreed.


We walk around the edge of the lake. The children throw rocks on the ice. Sometimes they bounce. Sometimes they break through, leaving deep holes behind. No matter what happens, the children laugh. I have hardly spoken with my sister over these past few months. J is a stranger to me now. I have spent more time with her children, who now live with my mother and stepfather. They want to be sure that they don’t end up like us.

J and I are alike in many ways – blonde hair, blue eyes, left-handed. As children, we always thought of others before ourselves. As a result, we were swooped down upon and pecked to shreds. We’ve both tried to take ourselves out of this existence. Because it’s either that or build an invisible, impenetrable barrier around yourself. We’re both still here and we’re both pissed off. We just drown it in different ways. Her way is literal. I’m afraid I will lose her. But in some ways, she’s already gone.

I seek the right words, but they all seem trite. Anyway, in order for someone to take your advice, they need to respect you. In the early days, after I first left home, my visits were precious. She would come running to me, arms outstretched. My little sunshine girl. Please don’t leave. Please come home. And yet I walked away. The cheerful shine of love in her eyes has become glacial contempt. Needle thin icicles piercing my heart. I walk alongside her in silence. If only I would have stayed. Please come back to us, Bug.


The next morning, we wander again to the lake’s edge. The ice is now paper-thin. It tinkles as it floats on the tiny waves. The air is infused with a soft glow, as if ice vapor has decided to linger on its journey skyward. We leave the lakeshore and enter the woods. We weave amid the naked tree trunks, taking care not to step in freezing puddles. My niece starts chanting the silly diarrhea song that we taught her. J laughs. Her infectious, staccato giggle hovers above us like a promise.


65 thoughts on “Ice in Transition

  1. Your words draw remarkable pictures – “Her infectious, staccato giggle hovers above us like a promise”. Being basically juvenile, I would really like to know the words for the diarrhea song πŸ™‚

    • Thank you, Robin. Okay, you asked for it: when you’re walking down the hall and it splatters on the wall: diarrhea.Pff.Pff. Diarrhea. Some people think it’s gross, but it’s really great on toast: diarrhea. Pff.Pff. Diarrhea… sister added more verses, but I’ve forgotten. Do you know any? πŸ˜‰ I got a kick out of being a slightly bad influence on my niece. My parents were not amused.

      • If those are the words for the song, then it is silly (as you put it) but I would say funny as well, especially to a child I would think. What fun she must have singing it. The photos are quite niece, more so the one of the child picking up something.

        • It made her laugh, for sure. At the time, she was having problems with the kids at school being mean to her. It cheered her up, especially since it seemed that she was the first one in her class to know this classic.

  2. Just found you. Very well put together blog. Written well. Beautiful pictures. your comment about the liver and anger. I had transplant 2 years ago. It just seemed to make sense – the correlation between the two.

  3. Julie ! You leave me spellbound with this ethereal , emotional and especially beautiful prose …” needle thin icicles piercing my heart ” . Your spirit orbits here in Michigan and touches me with intense beauty and pathos ….I long to meet you someday if you return ….much love and respect dear ( deer) Julie …xxxmeg
    I’m humbled to reblog this on my site …

  4. Reblogged this on megdekorne and commented:
    Beautiful , ethereal , emotional prose from Julie whose spirit orbits here to Michigan and touches with intense beauty , the ice ” sounds like breaking bones ”

  5. Beautiful words, wistful and sad. Lakes and ice, the seasons are true metaphors for our journey’s, cyclical, always in flux. Thank you for sharing. I wish you hope and peace.

  6. “Needle thin icicles piercing my heart,” so exquisitely describes the pain of remorse, your words are almost beautiful enough to redeem you. You and I have a few parallels in our family histories. This brought back all of the guilt I hold for letting down both my younger siblings in my single-minded need to escape. l felt the crush of the ambient air in this familial piece. You describe brilliantly, an unspeakable journey. My best to you, Julie. –Viv

    • We have more than a few parallels, don’t we? My escape was single-minded, too, and now so is my remorse. It is something I will never get over. However, J has turned her life around in a big way and has a happy life. Even though we aren’t close and probably never will be, her happiness is the most important thing. Thank you for sharing your feelings, Viv.

  7. This one touched me in many ways. I spent 7 years in Michigan, and explored that state like no other; especially fond of winter in the northern regions.
    Liver issues loom large in my family, over several generations. My cousin is still in recovery from a transplant, and my niece was born without bile ducts, and survived 3 transplants by the age of 2 yr. There is hepatitis, cirrhosis, and alcohol born liver damage. I never made the connection with anger. It makes sense for some of them.
    And, the most sensitive of all, moving 2000 miles away from a family of siblings that were more like my own children. My escape was warranted, but oh, the guilt. I still have a tenuous relationship with one sister who never forgave me, even after life took her miles away from home. Still working out those “needle thin icicles”. Sorry for the long comment, Julie, but this post was special. Thank you. Van

    • You don’t need to apologize for a long comment, Van. You are welcome to share whatever you feel like sharing. My escape was definitely warranted, too, and necessary for their sake at the beginning. J and my youngest brother were like my children, too. I guess I felt that I would succeed so grandly that I could save my whole family from their rotten situation. That didn’t happen, not even a little. J doesn’t seem to hold a grudge, but we’re really strangers. My hope was granted and she has a good life now. That’s all that matters.

  8. Just gorgeous. I love your personal posts, when you let us have a glimpse into your past. Also, I’m a big believer in emotions and energy having an impact on our health. I hope you’re well now.

  9. Incredibly, despite our travels to many countries, I’ve never seen a frozen lake… (and only seen snow once in my life as well)!

    Apologies for the random aside, I’d love to hear cracking ice!

    • Random asides are most welcome. I sometimes forget that so many have never experienced a real winter. No plans to go all the way to Antarctica before heading home?

      • Antarctica was originally in the plans, but we’ve taken so long to travel south (we’re only in Ecuador still), that we’ll miss this years window for Summer. Some other time for sure!

  10. Beautifully penned dear Julie ⭐ ~ Very touching, I love the way your words run smoothly, I almost felt as if I could read through them! … Beautiful pics, as well. Thanks for sharing & all the best to you. Aquileana πŸ˜€

  11. Lovely portraits and narration of Michigan landscape slowly transitioning from winter gloom into warmer, sun-filled days ahead, working its own transformative magic on the people around. From ice, ice winter, wishing u brightly alive spring days ahead, Julie… Raj.

    • Thank you, Raj. We are ready for it here in Slovakia! Spring in the north is truly transformative and so fleeting. It still amazes me, the effect that it has on people.

  12. Wonderful read!
    And hey, I sang a diarrhoea song with friends when I was little also, “when you’re running through the jungle and you feel a little rumble…diarrhoea! Diarrhoea!” lol

  13. Learning about other peoples’ things of the past is always something precious. I loved this personal post, Julie, it has something bittersweet and .. ethereal…just pure life. Hope you’re feeling well, now. Cris

  14. Crackling ice… a sorrowful past, from which you construct beautiful prose, Julie. I forget to go looking for you but it’s always a worthwhile experience. Stay well! πŸ™‚

  15. Beautifully written and an amazing use of the senses. I could feel the chillness in the air and could see the rocks bouncing off of the thin ice. Really enjoyed this read.

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