It's not even December yet. It's not even, technically, Winter. And while we haven't gotten any of those extreme cold temperatures, native here mainly to January and February, to my surprise the river froze, all at once, in the night.
The river freezes strangely here. There are deep currents to make it slow to freeze. The strange warm effluvia of a major megalopolis flow into it. Toasty little songbirds cool their hot feet in it. So sometimes, even in the deepest parts of the Winter, when a week goes by without the temperature ever breaking into the positives, the Mississippi is still capable of holding open leads of water, usually steaming slightly, with flocks of geese huddled on its icy edges curled desperately into themselves.
But today, after merely a moderately cold, single-digit night, the river had strangely frozen solid, and it looked like it was all at once. Waves and winding currents were written into the fluid, undulating ice. The whole frozen river looked as if it was full of white lily pads. I imagined that if I had awaken at three in the morning and went out to look at the river I could have seen it go from liquid to solid in a single second. I could have heard the great condensing sound of water flash freezing, like in a magic spell, like a Disney movie. Elsa touched the river, and it turned to ice.
I walked upstream, keeping an eye on the mysterious river, but I am easily distracted by my thoughts, birds, bikers, the anticipation of street crossings, the vagueries of time. And so some short while after walking under the railroad bridge around the old Meeker Dam site, just past the Shriners' Hospital, I looked down at the river again.
It was hardly frozen at all.