Visiting my father’s house, one year to the day after his death, I awoke to a world of ice. Freezing rain had settled into the Columbia River Gorge, covering everything — living and not — with a crystal layer of ice. I had heard of ice storms over the years of visiting my father, but had never witnessed one firsthand. The realities of such storms were completely unknown to me.
My excitement for this beautiful, unfamiliar, frozen world overcame any thought of injury and I grabbed my camera, full of curiosity and wonder. I ignored suggestions to put on snowshoes to avoid slipping on the ice, pulling on my snow boots and heading out the door. I moved carefully over the frozen surfaces, giggling to myself when I found that the paths of smooth river rocks had been transformed into skating rinks, and that I had to stamp my feet through the thick ice covering patches of snow to gain purchase.
Once I found my footing, I looked around at an unfamiliar world where everything shone in the dull reflective light and seemed immeasurably fragile under the weight of frozen water. Sliding around on the glassy ground, I was filled with excitement to photograph every living thing I could find, exploring each life encased in ice, amazed by the resilience of nature in surviving this surreal phenomenon. Each leaf, each flower and each berry I found seemed to be completely different from what I had known before. I thought of strawberries covered in confectioner’s glaze, shining and sweet.
I spent much longer exploring than I had planned. As I returned to some plants and discovered new ones, I realized that the temperature was rising and, with a gentle rain, this wondrous fantasy world was melting away. My sense of wonder and excitement shifted to recognition of the fleetingness of each moment, the fragility of each life, momentarily preserved in ice, and ultimately on my father’s passing and the ephemeral, beautiful nature of life itself.