poetry and prose about place

by the frozen lake, next year

with 12 comments

It’s mild here today and we are expecting lots of snow.  I’m working on my novel, doing edits.

I want this post to include an excerpt from my work, so I have chosen a wintry bit.

In this excerpt, the protagonist, Sadie, and her husband are near the edge of the lake, on the property they have bought.  They’re planning to bring the Landing Church to this location, to build a writer’s retreat.

Sadie’s husband, Tom, isn’t well.  He’s dying.  His way of coping is to be a stoic, to face his death as inevitable, and to plan his wife’s life out for her.  Usually, he talks about what she’ll be doing this time next year.  Until now, he’s refused to include himself in any talk of the future.  But, as the novel progresses, his thinking is changing.


the frozen lake


The lake, in the grip of November, had frozen to plates of glass, interrupted by pebbly bands where the wind mixed snow into the surface of the ice.  The distant shore presented itself in silhouette, an indigo strip between the lake and the brighter sky.  The dark images of trees were frozen into the surface of the ice.  The air was crisp, but we sat, as we did in summer, on the bench by the lake’s edge.

‘Next year,’ said Tom,  ‘we’ll clear the ice for skating.  And we’ll build a bonfire, here by the shore.  There’s certainly enough dead wood to fuel it.’

I sat still, watching the lake and thinking about Tom’s words –  ‘next year’ and ‘we’.  These words were so different from what he would have said, even three weeks ago.  Ordinarily, he’d be making plans for me alone.  Ordinarily, he’d have said ’Next year, you’ll clear the ice for skating.’

We sat in silence, as we always did, just watching the lake.  Tom probably didn’t notice how thoughtful I’d become.  I wondered how I’d missed it, this transition from ‘no future’ to ‘plans for tomorrow’.  Plans to be shared by us both.  My hands began to tremble.

To distract myself, I found a flat stone embedded in the frost at my feet.  I stood, moving a little closer to the edge of the lake.  I turned my arm and cradled the stone in my hand.  I pulled my arm back and propelled the stone toward the ice.  It hit with a clear ping and bounced across the surface, leaving a line of clear notes in its wake.  I tried another one.  It sang a semi-tone higher, and the ice vibrated between the crisp air and the ice-cold water below.   Tom bent and loosened another flat stone from the ground.  He stood beside me.  In another minute, the ice was ringing with the song of skipping stones.

We’d soon depleted the shore of every loose flat rock.  The lake was still and silent.  No note remained in its repertoire.  The ice in front of us was littered with flat grey stones. 

‘No skating this year,’ said Tom.  ‘We’ve planted enough trippers to last into next spring.’

We turned from the lake and followed the path back to the field.  As we navigated the alders and rounded a corner, we came suddenly on a sturdy bush of bright red berries.  ‘Look, Sadie.  Winterberry holly,’ said Tom. ‘It usually grows by the lake, but here it is, in our field.  Our very own burning bush.’  

The bush glowed with orange-red berries, set off by bronze-colored leaves, not yet fallen.  In the silver and grey of the thicket, it was a gift…



bush of winterberry holly


If you have any comments, good or bad, about this piece of writing, let me know.  Is there anything you don’t understand?  I there anything I could better explain?  Have you ever skipped stones on  the ice of a lake or pond?


Copyright   Jane Tims   2012

Written by jane tims

December 19, 2012 at 7:46 am

12 Responses

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  1. This is beautiful, Jane. I was reminded of winter days by my pond. I love the musical sound rocks make on the ice. 🙂



    December 30, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    • Hi Robin. I always think how lucky you are to live by a pond and experience its moods year in and out. Jane


      jane tims

      December 31, 2012 at 5:36 pm

  2. It really engaged me–and made me want to learn more about the characters. Until I read this, I didn’t know that you could skip stones across ice. I’ve skipped stones on water, but never tried it with ice.



    December 21, 2012 at 1:11 am

    • Hi Sheryl. Thanks for the comments. You’ll have to try some flat stones on ice. You’ll love the sound. Jane


      jane tims

      December 21, 2012 at 4:53 pm

  3. Very nice Jane. 🙂 I agree with Ellen that your prose is excellent.

    I’ve never skipped stones on a frozen lake and was fascinated to learn that
    the ice rings with the song of skipping stones.



    December 19, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    • Hi. Thanks! Stones skipped on ice are beautiful to hear. I love skipping stones, summer or winter! Jane


      jane tims

      December 20, 2012 at 2:43 pm

  4. Lovely descriptions of winter! A nice balance of description and speech and I like the short paragraphs. also nicely unsentimental. Keep up the good work and have a lovely Christmas! – best wishes, Diana



    December 19, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    • Hi Diana. I appreciate the comments. I like writing short paragraphs. I hope they move the story along. Merry Christmas to you too. Jane


      jane tims

      December 19, 2012 at 5:31 pm

  5. Just lovely. It is such a natural reaction, that someone who had come to terms with dying on one level would have these subtle changes as other levels kick in. You have written it beautifully, so real and understated. And a nice mix of descriptive prose and narrative. I’m ready for more! Happy holidays to you and yours, Jane.


    Jane Fritz

    December 19, 2012 at 10:28 am

    • Hi Jane. Thanks for the comment. I am finding the blog is a great way to encourage me to edit carefully. Also, Happy Holidays!! Jane


      jane tims

      December 19, 2012 at 5:29 pm

  6. Excellent Jane! Poets write such good prose…


    Ellen Grace Olinger

    December 19, 2012 at 8:10 am

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