Bam! Dirty engines go into reverse. Farrrumm. Oily engines rev. Black smoke pours out the squatty stack. The throttle thrusts forward propelling the tons of steel, ice cutter precisely into the channel jammed with months of frozen ice. Bam! Engines go into reverse. Farrrumm.
This winter, on January 20th we watched the ice cutter, Candace Elise, and learned. The ice cutter, which started at around 11:30 a.m., rammed the icebergs that blocked the channel to Lake Macatawa, We happened upon the event and wondered why thousands of people had gathered on a cold, late winter day. Usually Holland State Park was empty in winter. We were told the ice cutter had traveled in the open waters of Lake Michigan to the canal, which connects to Lake Macatawa. A freighter had been iced in and needed rescue.
Headscarves, mittens, and winter coats allowed the crowd, who felt each thrust forward, to watch from the edge of the channel. The smell of the overextended diesel engines filled the air. Forward, then backwards. Forward, then backwards. The ice cutter’s rhythm mesmerized the crowd of three thousand or so. We watched, hour after hour as the ice cutter rammed full steam ahead into the seemingly impenetrable solid ice pack. Then, reversing engines, gliding backwards again, 50, 60, 75 feet. With each impact it seemed that the progress was only inches, if any. Engines go into reverse. The crowd watched knowing that it would not be the next time or the next or the next that the icebreaker would burst through. Who would win, the ice or the icebreaker? No one knew for sure, but we watched believing that we would see victory.
I watched knowing that this event was changing my life. I knew that from that day forward, I would never give up as easily on things that I had in the past, that I would not stop, that I would not give in, that things that look insurmountable are conquerable. Watching the persistence where inches were success changed my life.
As authors, hours of thoughtful contemplation sometimes translate into one paragraph. We feel our words. And, that one paragraph, may be our best work. Other times, chapters fly onto the page. What is important is the persistence. Sometimes we need to work like the ice cutter, moving the story forward, glide away from the work, then come back full force as our engines move us forward. Just not stopping.
The crowd watched. We waited. There was progress, then more progress. At dusk, with a beautiful purple Lake Michigan sunset as its backdrop, the ice cutter’s captain threw the engines into high one last time and the cutter split through the last berg of resistance breaking through the ice. Wooooo-Wooooo. The captain blew the horn. And, the crowd all cheered as though the day was our success.