Ice Friday: Ballard’s “The Drowned World”

He had been born and brought up entirely within what had once been known as the Arctic Circle – now a sub-tropical zone with an annual mean temperature of 85 degrees – and had come southward only on joining on of the ecological surveys in his early 30’s. The vast swamps and jungles had been a fabulous laboratory, the submerged cities little more than elaborate pedestals. Apart from a few older men such as Bodkin, there was no one who remembered living in them -and even during Bodkin’s childhood, the cities had been beleaguered citadels hemmed in by enormous dykes and disintegrated by panic and despair, reluctant Venices to their marriage with the sea.

Their charm and beauty lay precisely in their emptiness, in the orange junction of two extremes of nature, like a discarded crown overgrown by wild orchids.

Ice Friday: Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows

The front door of the hollow tree faced eastwards, so Toad was called at an early hour; partly by the bright sunlight streaming in on him, partly by the exceeding coldness of his toes, which made him dream that he was at home in bed in his own handsome room with the Tudor window, on a cold winter’s night, and his bedclothes had got up, grumbling and protesting they couldn’t stand the cold any longer, and had run downstairs to the kitchen fire to warm themselves; and he had followed, on bare feet, along miles and miles of icy stone-paved passages, arguing and beseeching them to be reasonable. He would probably have been aroused much earlier, had he not slept for
some weeks on straw over stone flags, and almost forgotten the friendly feeling of thick blankets pulled well up round the chin

Ice Friday: Margret Wittmer’s “Floreana”

Margret Wittmer was an early pioneer in the Galapagos, arriving on Floreana Island in 1935:

At the end of July, 1938, I was working in the garden when I heard zooming sound overhead, I could see two airplanes somewhere over Floreana and then nothing but a vibration in the air. For a long time, we stood on the hill looking in the direction from which the planes had come.The next morning, just as we were finishing breakfast, Sergio came panting in, waving two letters, one from the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt. “I am on board the United States Cruiser Houston, and radioed two of our escort planes to fly above your farm with a signal that we would come to Black Beach. I hoped you would come down there and we could take you out on the Houston in a launch. Unfortunately she was there two hours without your turning up. I shall hope to make you acquaintance another time.”

Ice Friday: Margaret Mazzantini’s “Don’t Move”

I went over to one of the windows from my childhood home and touched the handle. Behind my back, in the big room, there was nothing I remembered, nothing at all. So now I knew that my memories dwelled in a place that didn’t exist, a place that been swept from the face of the earth, and those four rooms, that bathroom, and that kitchen lived only in me. All the things that once seemed irremovable were gone. The toilet was dust; the plates were dust; the beds were dust. There was not a trace of my family’s passage; our smell had disappeared forever.

Ice Friday: Chet Raymo’s “Soul of the Night”

In principle, it should be easy to decide whether the universe will end in eternal night or singular noon, in the infinitely thin dispersal of its substance or in the re-creation of the flash of the Big Bang. If the present average density of the universe is greater than three protons for every thousand liters of space, then gravity will eventually prevail and the universe will collapse back toward its beginning. On the other hand, if the average density of the present universe is less than this critical value, the expansion will continue on forever.

(Chet Raymo, The Soul of the Night, p194)

Ice Friday: Heinlein’s “Orphans in the Sky”

Their first sortie took them all of fifty feet from the Ship. They huddled close together for silent comfort and watched their feet to keep from stumbling on this strange uneven deck. They made it without incident until Alan looked up from the ground and found himself for the first time in his life with nothing close to him. He was hit by vertigo and acute agoraphobia; he moaned, closed his eyes and fell. Hugh fought against it. It pulled him to his knees, but he fought it, steadying himself with one hand. However he had the advantage of having stared out through the view port for endless time. “Just sit still and you’ll be all right.”

Ice Friday: Gunter Grass’ “The Flounder”

The Neolithic era is behind us. In the opinion of the prosecution, the Flounder’s guilt has been proved. But before the sentence can be pronounced, certain material remains to be examined, especially the following allegations of the Flounder: (1) there were three-breasted women in the Neolithic era; (2) only thanks to the third breast were women able to repulse the male claim to power; (3) only three-breasted woman can possibly restore the matriarchate.

Ice Friday: Jane Hirshfield’s “Rock”

What appears to be stubbornness,/refusal, or interruption,/is to it a simple privacy. It broods/its thought like a quail her clutch of eggs.

Mosses and lichens/listen outside the locked door./Stars turn the length of one winter, then the next.

Rocks fill their own shadow without hesitation. and do not question silence,/however long./Nor are they discomforted by cold, by rain, by heat. The work of a rock is to ponder whatever it is:/an act that looks singly like a prayer,/ but is not a prayer.

As for this boulder,/its meditations are slow but complete.

Someday, its thinking worm out, it will be/carried away by an ant./A Mystrium cammilae,/perhaps, caught in some equally diligent,/equally single pursuit of a thought of her own,

Ice Friday: Stephens’ “Charwoman’s Daughter”

In the evening of that day Mary and the young man who lodged with their neighbor went for the walk which had been customary with them. The young man had been fed with an amplitude which he had never known before, so that not even the remotest slim thread, shred, hint, echo or memory of hunger remained within him. He tried but could not make a dint in himself anywhere and, consequently, he was as sad as only a well-fed person can be. Now that his hunger was gone, he deemed that all else was gone also. His hunger, his sweetheart, his hopes, his good looks, all were gone, gone, gone.

Ice Friday: Francis Bacon on Form

I work on what’s called the given form. If you look at forms, they’re extremely, in a sense, unrepresentational. One of the things I’ve always tried to analyze is why it is that, if the formation of the image that you want is done irrationally, it seems to come from the nervous system much more strongly than if you knew how you could do it. Why is it possible to make the reality of an appearance more violently in this way than by doing it rationally? Perhaps it’s that, if the making is more instinctive, the image is more immediate.

(From Interviews with Francis Bacon, David Sylvester)