The Iceberg

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The Icebergs (1861), Frederic Edwin Church

In memory of the one who bore my name 

Once upon a time, in a place at the end of the earth, there lived an iceberg.  The iceberg was fairly small in size; part of a much larger one from which she had broken away and floated free in the cold water. She floated endlessly in any direction the waves saw fit to take her.

Sometimes she found herself brushing up against other icebergs but she learned to steer clear after a particularly painful bump during a patch of stormy weather.  On the whole, she managed to stay out of trouble, watching the weather carefully and adjusting her course to suit the conditions.  She was weary and lonely and wanted to find a place where she could be with other icebergs who wouldn’t hurt her and where she could rest.

Now we all know about icebergs and how the part that shows above the water is only a very small part of the whole. This particular iceberg was bright on the surface and when the sun shone on her, she sparkled and glimmered and danced about on the water, bobbing up and down as if she didn’t have a care in the world.  This was the part that showed above the water, but below there was a great weight of ice into which lots of debris had become frozen.  All the flotsam and jetsam of her own and other people’s lives had become entangled and was firmly lodged into this heavy submerged part; it was slowly dragging the tiny tip of the iceberg right under the water.  Steering herself had become more and more difficult and dangerous.

Then one day the iceberg found a small sheltered bay on the edge of the land and she floated into without even realizing where she was going.  She just felt she was safe at last and able to stop worrying about bumping into other icebergs for a while.  She rested herself and basked in the warmth of the sun that shone on her. When night came she thought that she would find that she had floated out again into the dangerous waters and every new day, when the sun came out again, she marvelled at it and wondered if it could possibly last.  And it did.

After some time, she really began to trust the constancy of the sun and found that she didn’t need to worry about it any more.  Sometimes a cloud passed in front of the sun but it soon passed and afterwards the sun seemed all the more warmer by comparison.

The longer she stayed in the sheltered bay, the warmer the water became, and then a strange thing began to happen.  The edge of the ice beneath the water began to melt, freeing some of the debris trapped in it.  Every day the sun shone and the ice melted a little more.  The iceberg watched in amazement as bits floated to the surface; she realized that these were bits of herself that had been submerged for a long time, causing her to feel so heavy, dragging her down.  She began to understand why things had been so difficult for her and she was glad to watch the rubbish drifting away into the wider waters.

The sun’s warmth had also changed the bit of iceberg that showed above the water.  The great deep jagged clefts etched down her sides had been smoothed away by the great rivers of water that streamed down her as she watched the debris floating to the surface.  The tip of the iceberg, instead of becoming smaller, had actually become larger as more of herself showed above the water, freed of entanglements.

This affected the iceberg in different ways.  At first she found it hard to recognize herself and she wondered if the other icebergs would know her, or of they would notice a change in her. She wondered if her new size would cause her problems when she went back into the wider waters and if she would be able to steer clear of the other icebergs in quite the same way.  But then she realised that now that she was bigger she would not need to be so fearful of being bumped or hurt and being free of the debris she would be able to steer more easily and have more choice about the directions in which she moved.  She was less likely to be dragged down or tipped over, even if she did occasionally bump into other icebergs.  She began to feel more whole, as though the part below the water was less separated from her.

Although there were still some bits of rubbish frozen into her submerged parts, at least she knew they were there and how they might affect her and that in time they too might work free and float away.  Now it may seem that all this happened a little too easily but it was not so.  Whilst the iceberg basked in the sun after first finding the sheltered bay, there was a lot of turbulence beneath the surface and the iceberg was very anxious, not knowing exactly what was going on down below.  At times she was frightened of the degree of agitation in the waters and wondered if she would be able to maintain her balance.  But all the time the sun kept shining and that reassured and comforted her and made her feel that whatever was going on beneath the waters, all was still well above.

When the iceberg had melted enough to free the debris, the disturbed particles began to hurt as they broke free and the pain was worse as the icy numbness dissolved away.  The iceberg was dismayed when she recognized some of the debris that had floated to the surface; bits she didn’t want to see; bits she had forgotten she had picked up on dark and stormy nights; bit she was frightened about and with which she wished she had never come into contact.  But she had to admit, they were all parts of her, whether she liked them or not.  And the sun still shone.

The sun shone on the good bits and the sun shone on the bad bits; somehow that made the iceberg feel as though things couldn’t be so bad after all.  Some of the bad bits didn’t belong to her at all, but were parts of the larger iceberg from which she had broken away.  As the debris floated in the water around the iceberg and the sun shone on them, she was able to look at them more closely and see how they had been harming her.  She allowed herself to feel angry about the bits that had been attached to her by others and that she had thought were hers.  She had always realised something was there, weighing her down, but she had not known what to do about it.  Some of the rubbish might even be quite useful, like lots of flotsam washed up on the shore; useful at another time, in another place.  It has made her the shape she was and now her shape had changed to something that was much more her own.

The iceberg looked out towards the wider waters and wondered if it was time to risk herself out there.  She knew the sun that warmed her would still be shining down on her and that it did not only shine on the sheltered bay.  She still needed the sun and the wind and the rain in order to be fully aware of living, experiencing and growing.

She felt the breeze stirring around her, tugging gently at her, and she let herself go, with new hope and courage, out into the wider waters.

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