below the fractal
pond ice a fallen shagbark
hickory leaf suspended
February is often the coldest month of the year in these parts. Temperatures plummeted last night to below 0 F (-20 C). The ice on Jack's Pond across the road has frozen and thawed and frozen again in fractal patterns. The convoluted ice ridges hold a skiff of snow like etched frosted glass.
Just below the surface, a shagbark hickory leaf is held in suspension, its three lobes spread out like an airplane. During the last thaw the dark brown leaf drew more heat from the sun, melting and smoothing the ice surrounding it, creating a dark halo around the dead leaf.
The first year we lived here, the pond froze overnight, the ice as smooth and transparent as glass. The black water beneath it looked like the night sky without stars. We walked on the frozen water.
Just below the surface, we saw something huge and dark -- a snapping turtle, its shell as long as my arm and nearly as wide. We stopped and stood above the turtle, separated only by a shield of ice. Was it dead?
But no, the turtle was moving its legs, swimming ever so slowly. How could it breathe, with ice sealing off the air? The turtle held its pointy snout upright like a snorkel, so perhaps it was breathing a thin layer of air trapped under the ice.
This common snapping turtle could live for a hundred years. It's got that thick shell for protection and a powerful beak for snapping both prey and predators, and it's obviously able to survive in frigid ponds without hibernating.
Years have passed, but I still see that turtle, suspended below the ice -- moving, alive.