Sculpting of Thoughts

For a few weeks now I’ve searched for solace and inspiration with ice. More specifically, icy sculptures and formations created by nature on the small, undrained wetland potholes in what was formerly the prairie. Many of the sculptures form early morning or overnight, depending on wind direction and speed, along with the necessity of surface water.

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Initially the ice froze beautifully, finely crafted as the surface of a mirror … before warming temperatures and fierce winds broke through the sheets.

My writing, though, is not necessarily about ice. Consider ice as metaphor.

Like our government, our freeze-thaw cycle is out of whack. Along Big Stone Lake many residents were thrilled with the early formation of the ice sheet. That came on a calm night and was as finely crafted as the surface of a mirror. Ice skating was being talked about as time was counted for an appropriate thickness that would grant safety. Nearly as quickly, warming temperatures and fierce winds broke through the sheet and waves brought fractured slabs upon the shore or slid them atop the ice that remained. On some nights the ice seemed to refreeze in the shape of windblown waves. Now, as someone mentioned the other day, it’s a “damned mess.”

One early morning I passed an ice sculpture that seemed created by Picasso as one of his huge inner city sculptures. Other wetlands made stumps appear as candy kisses, or in the eyes of some, the upturned butts of feeding ducks. Another wetland on a late afternoon appeared as a regatta with each cattail seeming a mast with finely trimmed sails listing this way and that. All across the wetland.

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Winds made stumps appear as candy kisses, or in the eyes of some, upturned butts of feeding ducks.

These sculptures won’t last very long. They’re as vulnerable as they are interesting.

Which brings me to this … vulnerability. Many of us gathered on a cold, windy night in an old schoolhouse the Sisters Kay and Annette Fernholz had decorated for a special gathering in honor of the upcoming Advent. Most of us were long-time friends. We arrived from our various small prairie towns in search of spirituality in the face of uncertainty and vulnerability. Our spirituality, as individually unique as a chanced ice sculpture.

Trying times such as these foster such endeavors and gatherings. Speaking only for myself, there is immense confusion. At one point after a moment of silence, I confessed to the others of feeling caught between devastating dismay and a Bob Marley doctrine of “don’t worry ‘bout a thing, cause every little thing gonna be alright …”

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In one wetland, the wind created what appeared as a regatta, with each cattail seeming a mast with finely trimmed sails listing this way and that. All across the wetland.


Would these times, these political policy shifts that will long affect the vast majority of U.S. citizens so needlessly,  last lifetimes? Or would they, like the ice sculptures, transform and ooze in shifting winds back into waters?

My nephew, of a conservative bent though no fan of what is happening, suggested that in a few years we will continue along in a “new normal.” As a father of four children, I wonder how he gathers his thoughts around his children’s future. In this political climate, one so seemingly devoid of compassion and caring for the vast majority of citizens regardless of economic stature, though certainly vividly against anyone of color, what does our future as a nation hold?

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It was almost Picasso like, floating for a short moment in time before transforming back to water.

Shortly after the last election two of my closest and dearest friends seemed optimistic and incredibly hopeful of our future. (Warning, for here comes the sweet rhythm of reggae and the Marley lyrics! Here comes the shifting winds and ever sculpting waters!) No, neither would be caught dead voting for the likes of Trump for president, yet both … one in Hungary, the other nearby … spoke the same basic message: That his election as president, and what this Congress is doing, is absolutely necessary to awaken a vast majority of people who have grown so complacent that half do not even bother to vote. “We absolutely needed this,” said my area friend.

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Seeking solace in nature, in times so uncertain and vulnerable.

These are thoughts I carry as I travel nearby roads attempting to find solace in nature. Here I seek a personal calm in a world that is decidedly not. I commune with the frigid prairie wind that creates incredibly interesting forms, then as quickly shifts to take them away, to sculpt something entirely different or nothing at all. Life, as is nature, is uncertain and vulnerable.

I only wish I could sing like Marley of not worrying, that every little thing will be alright. The music, though, is more Dylanish … so faint, blowing in the wind.

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About John G. White

Somewhat retired after a long award-winning career in newspapers (Wisconsin State Journal, Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, Denver Post and a country weekly, the Clara City Herald). Free lance photographer and writer with credits in more than 70 magazines. Editor with various Webb Publishing magazines in St. Paul, and a five year stint as editorial director at Miller Meester Advertising.

3 thoughts on “Sculpting of Thoughts

  1. Pingback: Sculpting of Thoughts | Listening Stones Farm

  2. Quite the eloquent message, very nicely written. I fear that “everything’s gonna be alright” means only wishful thinking and shirt sleeve “hope” instead of positive action. What IS that action, don ‘t know, but I “hope” we act when we finally realize it. Keep up the wonderful blogs, my friend.

  3. Great blog post as usual John. You inspire deep thought woven with beautiful pictures of nature. As your nephew of a conservative bent, I am worried that you may have misunderstood the quote you used….”will become the new normal”. I am mortified at the current state of our politics and the dismantling of our social safety net and consumer safety checks all in the name of “conservatism”. My statement about this becoming the new normal in a few years refers to my lack of faith in an electorate waking up and voting for change. As Trump and Fox News lower the bar for political decorum and the donor class claims more power over politicians I am afraid that there will not be a significant revolt of the electorate. Really, I am afraid that too many in our country have been ignored, demoralized, and minimized to the point that they are craving change of any kind. Even in the form of a simple minded lunatic like Trump. I do fear for my children’s future as any parent would, but I also know that the children are our future. They will be the ones to shape and mold the politics that will transform our country. They will be the generation that adopts the new conservation ethic in a way that your generation and mine could never fully accomplish. So I do have hope even in the face of this darkest hour.

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