My sense of ice failed me. It’s not the only thing

Years ago I developed Soucheray’s Sense of Ice by playing the title of an exquisite detective novel by Peter Hoeg, Smilla’s Sense of Snow, set in Copenhagen and playing Smilla Jaspersen, who preferred ice and snow to love. She could read the winter soil. She didn’t fall on the ice.

Joe SocherayIt has finally let me down. On March 15th, a not unusually cold day for the time of year, I stepped off a curb and put my foot in what I knew to be a shallow melt of winter runoff. But the water was dark and I wasn’t expecting the ice beneath the surface. Yes, I should have felt it. The only rule of winter hiking is never to get cocky.

I went down and stopped the fall with the outside edge of my right hand. I might as well have tried splitting a concrete block with a karate chop. Luckily nobody was around, so I didn’t have to look surprised that someone had just put a road there.


There’s a certainty to a broken bone. You either hear it crack or you feel a distinct sting. This one was a thorn. I slammed my hand into a snowdrift and did so repeatedly until I got back to where I had parked my car.

On one hand I thought, “No big deal.” If a farmer slipped on the ice in front of his barn in 1902, he probably just rolled on it. He probably had Ma rip off a strip of hessian and tape the thing shut. Then again, what if it all healed and my pinky was in the permanent shape of a question mark? Or worse, it could flip onto the finger next to it and become a mallet finger.

So yes, I went to the doctor, had pictures taken that confirmed that a small bone was broken and that it would be five or six weeks before I could grab a golf club, for example. They fitted me with a removable fiberglass splint and sent me on my way, myself and about 20,000 other Minnesotans based on the similar splints I saw in the waiting room.

I cursed my clumsiness, my missed sense of ice, my timing at the onset of spring. I was probably unlucky.

Then I saw the picture.

It topped the Drudge Report for a full day last week; it was in many newspapers.

It was an image of a man’s hand sticking out of the dirt that was hastily dumped on him in Ukraine. The hand was weathered and masculine, perhaps a workman’s hand. What had he done to be remembered only by his hand and not his name or his deeds?

It’s hard to come to terms with this barbarism, this madness. Evil is incomprehensible. It’s an ugly war, not just morally, but visually. You can almost smell the oily stench of charred steel and burning rubber.

I will have thrown my splint away, and this man’s hand will remain in its lost posture, not waving or waving or saluting or touching a loved one.

I keep asking myself what line to cross. Apparently there isn’t one who doesn’t speak well of the world.

President Biden and others have called Putin a war criminal. That’s him. So who will arrest him? My sense of ice failed me. It’s not the only thing

Brian Lowry

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