Welcome to Braided Brook, a Journal of Stories About Growth.

Cities in Ice

Cities in Ice

Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders.
— William Faulkner

I was eleven or twelve when I decided to break icicles off the overhang of the house and build cities in the garden. In the deep cold of an Idaho winter I shoved my creations into the snow among dead flowers and crystallized rhubarb leaves. The big pieces went in base first to make towers. The little ones would be lined up to make roads or stacked like cabin logs to form walls. I piled the shattered hunks that didn’t fit anywhere else into rough pyramids.

I ran out of materials quickly and began searching the neighborhood for more. I talked Mr. Noyes into getting out his ladder and bringing them down from his porch for me so they wouldn’t shatter. The ones from his old shed were my favorite: you could break them off at the base so that whole sections of them stayed together. If you broke the bottoms off they looked like Greek columns and prison bars.

I took the large brown tiles of ice from the tops of the puddles in Mr. Kelly’s driveway for buildings and walls. I took a full wheelbarrow load of ice that had formed into columns away from the Gamble house, sweating and wheezing in the inversion, for what I thought would be the Coliseum, but what turned out to be Stonehenge. I even scraped the dirty black hunks off the underside of the work truck, until my mom yelled at me for ruining my gloves.

A few days later it snowed. I remembered my work and went out to the garden. Much of it was covered in white, and the tops of the small ice structures had melted. They sunk into each other and looked a little bit sadder, a little bit smushed. But I knew that the complexities underneath, the lattice houses, the dirty rocks lining a crude trestle bridge, were still there. As their architect I also held their secrets, even after they melted. So I rebuilt.

In time I had a new city, simpler, built out of smaller bits of ice. I had used up most of the big stuff. It nestled between bits of encrusted flowers, snow, and old ice buildings. I crushed snow into caps for parapets and went to look for more icicles..

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