THE BREAKING DAYS (Iowa City, IA)

by E.C. Fish on March 14, 2010

“…So all I can say is, keep some sunshine on yo’ face.”
— Richard Pryor

“Life is short and life is shit and soon it will be over.”
— The Kids in the Hall

It’s a good morning to be on the porch, the first in many a wintery moon, with temperatures edging into the fifties and hardly any snow in sight. Too good to last, most likely ( freezing precipitation is a fact of life here in the north country as late as April) but as long as it’s here, another cup of coffee sounds like a very good idea.

The first passably decent day in the fifties, however ephemeral it proves to be, sets something palpably loose in the Minnesota metabolism, the first indications of life without winter coats and extra blankets and the windows closed relaxing the muscles we’ve been clenching against the cold for so long. Any decent society would be planning a bacchanal under the circumstances. Up here, it might’ve been a good day for beer sales if they sold beer on Sunday.

When I lived in Iowa City there was a similar sort of time, usually a few weeks earlier in the year, when the ice broke up on the Iowa River and started heading for the spillways, a time I always thought of as the Breaking Days. Whether anyone else ever thought of it that way or not is almost irrelevant. Like so many things in Iowa City, the Breaking Days was a spontaneous occurrence free from sanction and its trappings, the magnetic pull of the suddenly flowing river pulling us down to the banks and bridges with our coats loose to watch the winter end. Each year, some poor schmuck would spontaneously elect himself the unofficial fool of the celebration, riding an ice floe helplessly down the river like some apocryphal Eskimo exile. They were good days, everyone smiling except for that guy.

There are too few days like that. Days ahead will certainly be warmer, longer, sweeter, but today is the first day in far too many that we’ve had any evidence of that and can actually allow ourselves to believe that it’s even possible, and maybe even allow ourselves another cup of coffee on the porch.
***
This piece originally appeared in The Pubhouse Dialogues

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Kat Pence February 1, 2012 at 4:26 am

I’d forgotten what a beautiful writer you are! Sort of makes me want to be that guy on the ice flow. Sort of.

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kirk February 21, 2012 at 5:38 am

One of the best things you’ve written.

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tim July 4, 2013 at 6:01 am

“a spontaneous occurrence free from sanction and its trappings, the magnetic pull of the suddenly flowing river pulling us down to the banks and bridges with our coats loose to watch the winter end” ……
this truly reminds me of how magical the written word can be…….

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