Friday, March 12, 2010
As I walked onto the ice, I kept in mind Chris Norris's survival instructions
During the spring thaw, Lake Wingra often produces spectacular fog displays. Yesterday afternoon, as I was looking at Lake Wingra, a low bank of ground fog came rolling in. For one moment, I could just barely make out the three ice fishers in the distance -- and then, in an instant, they were gone, just their muted voices reaching me across the fog. It was eerie, almost supernatural. The fog was dancing a wild dance on the lake. Beyond the foreground, a few treetops were visible above the whiteout, but little else.
I had no choice. I had to go out there with the Nikon D90 in my hand and the Coolpix in my pocket. Sure, the ice will be breaking up soon, and I seldom venture out on the ice this time of year, especially in the fog. But this was different. I was under the sway of the magic.
The ice felt mushy and spongy underfoot, but it seemed solid, though what did I know? But this was Lake Wingra. If I stayed close to the shore, how far could I fall through -- three or four feet? Besides, I kept the Chris Norris instructions for for how to survive falling through the ice while taking photos firmly in mind. As I walked out on the ice, I mentally rehearsed how I would hold the D90 high above my head as I plunged through the ice. The Coolpix in my pocket would have to fend for itself, though it never came to that.
I'm glad I did. The fog was doing wild things out there. Once I became totally surrounded by the whiteout, I gave up on my plan to get closer to the ice fishers. I had visions of walking around on the lake in circles, hopelessly lost, until dawn. I turned toward the shore, and it was like a scene out of a dream. Shapes materialized and dematerialized in shifting patterns of vapor. I felt like I was inside a cloud. The all too familiar shoreline looked alien and unknown. I stopped marveling long enough to take some photos, and then got in the car and drove back up to Monroe Street -- where, just two short blocks away, there was no fog at all.
Oh, and kids -- don't do this at home. Don't go out on the ice by yourself this time of year, especially if the water is deeper than a puddle.