Amber M.

Glacial Speed

Ever been to Yosemite? I have. Wow. While I'm not a religious person, I can safely state without equivocation that God lives there. I know there are other places where this must be true: where the surroundings are so otherworldly in their staggering beauty that words fail to capture their majestic incredibleness, but I haven't been to those places. The enormous force that created Yosemite Valley was ice, untold millennia of glacier-melt dragging stones and trees and mountainsides, thousands of tons of melting ice on a singular mission: find the sea. Watch a running river sometime. Watch how it grabs whatever's in its way and shapes whatever it races through. Then slow it down to glacial speed, or something like an inch a decade. It's astonishing. Water -- simple water -- is a force to be reckoned with; scouring crunchy sharp-edged ice even more so. Dig it: melting ice deposited all that stuff along the edges and sidewalks of Yosemite Valley. Discarded like pocket lint yet 10 times my size, or 10 thousand. Half-Dome was once an Entire Dome, before the ice cracked it in twain some time long before anybody was around to confirm that it made a noise. When I think about it, I have to sit down, even nap, because it makes my brain go ka-thud-thump.

In a teeny tiny microscopic way, I've been playing with this force.

Every surface and wall space in my room is covered with the outcome from the latest ice dye bath. The results, of course, are spectacular (see below). I can barely take my eyes off them. I've been doing ice baths in different ways for a couple of months now, even though in California it's more of a summer activity. My first few triumphs were layered in tall thin containers; tall as I could find I could still only get about 3 layers, when I wanted 5. This time I used instead a shallower, wider vessel: an under-bed box with a cooling rack on the bottom and some "waste" fabric to catch the grid marks. Then I started packing in the pre-soaked cloth: t-shirt blanks I found in my stash that match nothing else, even some newborn-size onesies I have no idea who might ever use. Just clearing out the stash. Whatever I found stuffed into the pre-soak bucket or the "dry" pre-soaked bin I tucked into a corner or gap, until every bit of box had something squashed or tied or knotted laid out and ready. After covering it all over with bagged ice and shooing all the uncovered noses out of the area, I expertly (hee hee) applied several randomly selected powders in not-so-randomly selected places, and then I waited.

Like the glacier carving Yosemite Valley, the ice on top of my bin decides where it's going. Instead of rocks and mountainsides, we're talking about dye molecules, but the process is (probably?) identical. Gravity and the vagaries of some mysterious and wonderful chaos choose the path, dragging color along folds and under strings and into corners. Every color blends or bleeds or breaks in fabulous and unpredictable ways. I can shift the gravity, if I think there's too much white in the corner, by boosting up one end or the other, but truly, I have very little control over any of it. All I can do is trust the process and wait.

This is the hard part. This is where the glacial speed comes in. I'm not patient. OCD runs so rampant in my family it's probably in my DNA somewhere. I'm down there at the bin every few hours to see how much has melted and where the dye's going. Not that I can make out anything at all color-wise at this stage, but still. I'm watching it. I dump salt on top, thinking that will make a difference. I get my heat gun and hair-dryer and hit it from two directions. I put a heater next to the box and set it for full blast. I bring it in from the garage (because what if it's less than 40 degrees outside? Nothing will melt!!) and put it on top of a heating vent, pushing the cat off to find another warm spot. Sometimes I even put the taller ones in the microwave, pretending it's because of the turquoise I put in and not because 3 layers of ice take more than overnight to finish melting. Especially the middle layer. Geez, 36 hours later and the middle cloth is *crunching* it's so frozen. Sigh.

The earth is a much more patient artist than I am.