Glacial Milk

Rowing across a large freshwater lake at the foot of Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska, strong headwinds blow us backwards. The glacier’s enormity spawns unique weather around it. The frigid expanse meets warmer air above it and creates a whirling tempest over the water. Melting ice mixes with ground-up rock, pulverized by the slow-moving behemoth. Hundreds of pounds of fine silt slip into the lake each day, infusing the azure water with a thick whiteness, that resembles a giant light-blue milkshake. No life or light permeates the milky fluid: Neither water lilies, algae, nor fish, crawdads, frogs, insects nor the birds or bear who would normally lunch on a lake’s buffet. How strange is the absence of birds’ bright calls and drifting flights above me.

The cobalt ice sheet staggers my eyes with beauty, disguising the dead zone below it. I’ve known people like that, who distract me with their physical allure and leave me to wonder why I’m blown about by their drama, similar to being buffeted by Mendenhall’s frosty gusts. A glacial person can pull me into a cold miasma. Prior warm emotions can eventually cede into lifelessness, like the glacier’s dazzling, but eerie and inert, lake.

Cate Burns is the author of Libido Tsunami: Awash with the Droll in Life, in which she unearths the ludicrous in the emotional live traps surrounding us — in families, friends and disastrous romances. Get it on Amazon today.