|Ice volcano, Grant Park, January 17, 2004|
I was at the beach the other day and....Yes, I know, you see the word "beach" and think of sun and sand. But MY beach--the one that borders Lake Michigan in Grant Park, a short walk from home--has variety! In the winter it is supposed to be covered with ice and snow. That has not been the case very often these past couple of winters, but that is how it is supposed to be.
So I was at the beach the other day, and all was right with the world. Snow! And ice! And something else, something that even in the best winters may not happen--there were ice volcanoes!
They're not common because they require just the right circumstances: ground-level temperatures a little below freezing, and waves several feet high sweeping in out of the east. As ice forms along the shore, the force of the waves sends a lot of energy underneath the ice, and in weak spots it can erupt and begin to form a cone that explodes water. Well, we've recently had some very strong winds and a big freeze, so the conditions were right.
I love ice volcanoes! To me, they are a reminder of nature's awesome power. They fill me with wonder. The photo above, from 2004, is still the only one I've taken with a good eruption occurring. You have to be at the right place at the right time, because often the same conditions that formed the volcano are followed by enough of a cold spell to harden the weak spot, and so all that's left is an ice cone. That's what I saw at the beach the other day--more ice volcanoes than I'd ever seen before, but despite fairly decent wind I didn't see any erupt.
Winter is about half over. I know I won't be going south and spending any time on warm, sun-drenched beaches. But if we get a strong east wind and the temperature is close to freezing, I will have to make sure to grab my camera, walk over to Lake Michigan, pull up a beach chair (that's a joke...), and wait. Maybe next time I'll get to see once again the spray of ice water explode from the mouth of a volcano. Maybe I'll hear once again the sound of wind, wave, and groaning ice. Maybe I'll experience once again these ancient forces of creation and destruction, and wonder at both my connectedness to it all and my smallness. And maybe, just maybe, I'll even contain enough of my excitement to take a new photo!