December 17, 1997

Ice Songs

I now live near the Ipswich River, a tidal river and a major watershed for this area. The river rises and falls twice a day while I go about my business. It is my first tidal river, so I am still getting use to it. The Aberjona River of my childhood was steady and always there. Sure it fell a little in the dry season, but it seemed pretty constant for me. My new river is always in change of motion.

Winter has brought layers of ice to the river. I cannot explain it well because I have not observed it long enough. But the layers are not one on top of the other. The ice looks like a frozen deck of cards spread out from the middle of the river up the bank. The layers step up, having hardened at different times as the river receded to the ocean.

I marveled at this new pattern of nature - at least new for me. It was another beautiful image for me to carry.

And then I heard the sound - a faint high pitched creaking. I thought that it might be a tree, but then it came again - a fine, expanding shudder of air and solid. The ice was moving, ever so slightly and it was singing.

The voice of the ice carried me back to Meatball Reardon.

I know ice. Long Pond, at the end of a trip deep into the woods, was the chosen skating pond of my youth. With my older brothers I traveled the path at a young age to days of hockey joy.

My memories of Long Pond involve more sounds than visual memories: the voices of the players out on the pond, the clicks of the pucks hitting the sticks, the scrape of the chair supporting a young child as she struggled across the ice, the voices of the players exhorting a teammate for a pass. And Meatball.

Meatball Reardon was at all games. Sports were his life. Meatball, as you might guess, was a large presence, always twice my size. He was a little older and not someone I hung around with, but he always appeared at pickup games. He was a little rough around the edges but he was a good soul. He had a love for any game and he had a voice.

Meatball did play-by-play during all games in a high pitched voice. He was always Bobby Orr or Sam Jones and he would “Score!” And he would whine. Boy, could he whine about any pass which was not thrown his way.

I can hear his high squeaky voice now. And I heard it yesterday in the ice. The sounds of the ice reached me like no picture album could. It unlocked imprints of sound memories buried deep inside me. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a sound can be a song.

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