Ipswich on the Volga


a beaver Bruins

Baby, it’s cold outside.

The Ipswich River, which normally winds through Ipswich, has slowed to a glacial trickle, virtually frozen over. It is probably not solid enough for a game of pickup hockey, but it may be getting close. A colony of beavers has reportedly been practicing figure skating between the Riverwalk dam and Choate Bridge, failing to understand that they have already missed tryouts for the Winter Olympics.

We haven’t had consistently frosty temperatures in Ipswich this winter. We’ve actually had some surprisingly balmy days since autumn officially handed off to winter on the December 21st solstice. But the ultra-cold days, the days when the mercury never even gets up to the thawing point, seem to be coming with greater frequency, and I think it’s time to blame someone.

My wife.

The evidence is truly damning. Now track with me. I’ll lay out the undeniable proof, and you can decide for yourself.

We were having a more or less normal winter until Kristina packed out to go to eastern Europe — specifically, the Republic of Belarus. This is the country that many Americans have never heard of — tucked between Russia Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia — that took the lion’s share of the radioactive fallout after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, Western non-profs began taking humanitarian aid (like pharmaceuticals for kids with radiation-related cancers) into Belarus by the planeload. Kristina began tagging along as a photographer, documenting the distribution of aid.

Eventually, Kristina and I started a charity called New Thing, Inc., and we continue to fund aid to the orphanages, hospitals, and other institutions of Belarus. After all these years, we’re sponsoring the biggest humanitarian aid distribution operation in the country. (You can follow the fun through photo reports posted at NewThing.net.)

But of course, there’s a price to pay. And I think it’s being paid by the fine folks, the upstanding citizens, of Ipswich. Because when Kristina leaves our beloved American shores, and travels to Belarus, something about this “missionary zeal” apparently annoys Mother Nature.

When Kristina departed from Terminal E at Logan in early January, everything seemed normal. It was actually raining in Minsk as she touched down in the capital city. But by the time she got over jetlag and settled in to our apartment on Karl Marx Street, temps had plunged in Belarus, to the point that even the Belarusians — a normally hardy lot, after thousands of years on the frozen tundra — were complaining about the cold. “Что принес это на?” people were asking. “What brought this on?”

Not “what,” dear Belarusians. “Who.” Kristina, who secretly doubles as Goddess of the Arctic, had arrived.

For the entire two weeks of Kristina’s visit, Belarusians were subjected to brutal, bone-splintering cold. She visited shelters, hospitals, and schools, spreading light and love and joy among sick children, abused children, abandoned children, disabled children — but outside, the air was lethally frigid. As you read these words, the river that runs through Minsk — the Svislach — is one long, twisted popsicle.

Up to this point, we might have written off the whole thing as coincidence. But look what happened at the end of Kristina’s trip to Belarus. She boarded a flight in Minsk, changed planes in Paris, and headed to Boston. As she wended her way westward, Mother Nature was preparing for her arrival by using a massive vacuum sweeper to suck every last B.T.U. out of New England. The Arctic Goddess was returning to Ipswich.

Yup, it’s Kristina’s fault.

And how to explain those intermittent “mild” days, when the ice on my driveway melts just enough during the day to re-freeze overnight into a deadly-slick glaze, perfect for up-ending a delivery person, shattering a coccyx and bringing on a warm ooze of legal tribulation? These occasional warm interludes occur because Mother Nature, on random days, agrees to hear the prayers of lawyers.



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