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There are two wonders of winter.

The first comes immediately to mind. It spreads its generous gentle blanket over the world with purity and quiet. It’s color is white. It opens our eyes to beauty and beckons our feet to play and to imprint our passings.

The second winter wonder is more secretive, more rare. It comes only infrequently and even then, only the tenacious winter sleuths will find it.

We called it black ice. It happened in our backyard pond (and in others, I suppose). A sudden plummeting of the temperature would freeze water so fast no air bubbles formed, making the ice clear and smooth. It let us look at the floor of the pond, as though through several inches of glass.

Then the pond became a massive mystery revealed for the curious. That was us. Merrily and I would lie flat on our tummies, well insulated in snow suits and mittens, with our noses as close to the ice as possible but not touching it.

Our eyes sought out the secrets of the deep. The borders of the pond were the most interesting because things were close enough to recognize. The bottom was coated with patterns of fallen leaves; a few retaining their lovely autumn colors.

Sometimes we found deflated balls or other toys dropped accidentally from our rowboat (a whole other story), hair ribbons or papers blown in on a gusty day. Most fun of all were the bugs, snails and tiny fish wiggling and darting among the green pond weeds, seemingly unaware of our presence - spies from another world.

The chill from the ice and our stillness eventually began to invade our bodies reminding us of the warmth of the indoors. Reluctantly we stiffly rose and found our way home, crunching through frozen twigs, leaves and grass.

Mom welcomed us at the kitchen door and helped two shivering girls peel off layers of cold damp clothing. Beyond her, already set out, were bowls of steamy tomato soup topped with melted squares of butter. Soon we would be warmed from the inside too. And in the telling we were warmed through and through.

Black Ice  

Story and watercolor illustrations by Wendy Leonard

Black Ice  

Story and watercolor illustrations by Wendy Leonard