I woke up this morning because the lake was growling.
Olga and I live in the bush on the shore of a lake. Our house perches on a hill perhaps 10 metres high, about 30 metres back from the lake. All winter we had a view of the white reaches of the lake, backdropped by evergreen-clad islands and shores. In the last few days the surface has darkened; some areas are black; the ice is rotting.
We too are participating in one of the warmest Marches on record. Our snow is practically gone. Yesterday it rained – again. Today we had both rain and sleet.
We used to have a railway skirting the north shore of the lake, about three kilometres from us. We often heard the trains passing. However, for a few years now, there’ve been no trains. The tracks have been pulled. And normally, nothing breaks the silence but the yap of a dog or a snow machine racing across the ice.
But this morning, the lake growled. It sounded very much like a freight train in the distance. We’ve heard the sound before, and we are no longer weirded out. Sometimes the rumbling built up to the point where it seemed the ice was climbing the hill and thumping our walls.
But it is simply a natural sound. It is the ice growling.
Sometimes, when we stand outside, it sounds like a fighter plane has skimmed the lake surface just out of sight.
Close to thirty years ago, military aircraft did just that. Once I was standing in front of our house when two jets streaked overhead just above the trees. For some reason, the air force was sending pilots over our home on low-level training missions. We are three hours away from any airport that could accommodate jet fighters. And there are a quintillion square kilometres of wilderness in Canada without residences. But the military gods chose our lake.
On a couple of occasions, these jets broke the sound barrier, scaring the bejesus out of us.
Now, when we stand outside, sometimes the growling and rumbling crescendos, and we expect a CT-114 Tutor to drop a package any moment.
What causes the phenomenon? I don’t know. But I suspect it is the ice detaching itself from the shores. Sometimes in the dead of winter, a traveler on a frozen lake will hear similar sounds, short-lived, of course. It is the sound of ice cracking, even if it is three metres thick. It’s a pretty unnerving experience.
One of these fine mornings we will wake up to the tinkle of ice. Overnight a wind will have broken up the ice and reduced the floes to blocks and the blocks to shards and the shards to splinters, splinters which will be tinkling against the shore.
It will take several months then for winter to establish its grip again.