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Gerry MacGregor


Stepping out on a brightly frozen morn, the beauty of the light uplifts my spirits as the shock of frozen air on my face wakens me sharply.

Today the temperature is significantly below zero. As I breathe in, each hair inside my nostrils becomes a tiny needle frozen in that split second when the air first enters.

The clouds of frozen moisturised air escaping my lungs on exhalation invite a sense of playfulness, like miniature dragons let loose, briefly into this plane, before evaporating to rejoin the greater clouds of everything.

I try forming them into circles, like smoke-rings, with limited success. The texture of sub zero carbon dioxide is too light for the games of tobacco.

The canal is completely frozen over and the ice looks thick enough to bear my weight but, unlike the boisterous boys who have suddenly appeared from nowhere to stamp and push each other onto the ice, I am far too cautious to test its strength. With the wisdom of age, or the learned experience of a fool, I avoid the reckless temptation to cross from one bank to the other.

Leaving behind me the shrieking whoops and laughter, I wander on. Past the immobilised barges, past the parks glistening with white and silver frozen blades of grass which catch the early morning Winters light and refract it from a hundred thousand tiny jewels.

Crossing a bridge, rather than tempting providence on the ice, I wander into the relative gloom of the thickly wooded dell, curious to see if the River has also frozen over.

A flock of squawking ducks comes flying at low level through the trees and down to the river to find their answer to the same question. On days like this, which are quite rare, the ducks have to go a bit further in search of food and leave the slapstick comedy theatre of the frozen canal where they look so undignified, but hilarious, in their attempts to skate around on the surface.

I wonder about the river. I mean, in a sense, what we call ‘the river’, only takes any solid sense of form when it is frozen. Otherwise it is more of a passing than a being.

I get down to the river bank and sit at the root of an ancient tree, watching the river flow by. It is true that not a single drop of water stays, that the flow is what we call ‘the river’. Isn’t it?

But, deep from within its own Spirit, the River calmly assures my mind that these complexities of thought are superficial and that being a river is no more, or less, constructed by thought or interrupted by seasonal change than being human is.

Winter 2016