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February 22, 2010: The Shape of Our Hearts

When my longtime friend Valerie Fons learned we’d acquired a vacation cottage on Washington Island, Wisconsin, she whooped with joy. She and her family are full time Island residents, and our new home meant we would now see each other all through the year instead of just briefly each summer.

“Once you’ve heard the ice break on the ferry crossing in winter, you’ll never forget it,” she exclaimed. “Winter is more spectacular than summer, I promise.”

The usual 30-minute trip across Death’s Door on one of the Washington Island Ferry Line’s car ferries takes a bit longer after the shores of Lake Michigan have iced up. The Arni J. Richter with its reinforced hull makes only two round trips most days in January, and you must reserve a space for your car in advance.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband Mark and I made our first deep winter trip to our cottage by the big lake. Our crossing on the afternoon boat the day we arrived was ice free.

As it happened, though, we provided transport to the mainland for Valerie a few days later, delivering her to the Green Bay hospital where she is undergoing chemotherapy treatments.

We drove onto the morning boat under an immaculate blue sky. Wrapped in robes and blankets, with her hospital gear at her side, Valerie was snugly stowed in our warm back seat. Once underway, though, we heard the hull of the Arni J. Richter begin breaking ice, and my dear, determined friend invited me outside. “Since I was a little girl,” she said, “I've always crossed on deck.”

We made our way to the boat’s leading end, she supported by her hospital walker with its tennis-ball pads and me beside her holding the blankets and trying to shield her body from the wind.

We leaned together against the steel railing, arms around one another in the frigid air, as the big boat forged through the ice toward the mainland like an unstoppable locomotive. Huge white floes of ice glittering in the bright morning sunshine dotted the surface of the lake.

“Look,” I shouted over the deafening crunch, “ice giant lily pads!” And indeed we gazed out on hundreds of rimmed circles being constantly pushed aside and destroyed by our hull.

Then we saw simultaneously not only round lily pad floes but here and there among them elongated heart-shaped ice pads, broken and reshaped from circles into hearts just as the stones on Schoolhouse Beach, another Washington Island treasure, are moiled and turned by the water into the world’s most perfect skipping rocks. If you look carefully, as I have, you find rare heart-shaped ones among the round.

“They’re hearts! They’re hearts,” we called in unison. “Look at that one! Look at that one! Ooh look at that one,” we shouted again and again as our vessel plowed toward the shore.

Today's Fortune Cookie Fortune:
You will see a sight you will never forget.

Photo by Paula Hedeen



Posted on Monday, February 22, 2010 by Registered CommenterMarianne Fons | CommentsPost a Comment | References6 References

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