Ice is nature's argument against our appointed rounds.

"Stay home," her great message goes, "where you belong."

And yet, after the first few days, many citizens feel obliged to set forth, to see if the office is still there or, in some cases, to acquire fropperies like food.

What we see, when we gaze forth at a glazed capital, depends.

"Ice is nice," I heard one man say.

"But liquor is quicker," said a lady wit.

Nothing, in fact, is quicker than ice, as those who have broken three ribs on it can testify.

But peace, let us rise above our ambulances, our heating bills, our failed dinners, our missed engagements. Now that at least one ice flow has departed, before we are again visited - beware the slides of March - let us see the grander message of ice.

Ice is not nice, it is terrible, but if you get a warm photographer outdoors, complete with film, we see that ice is beautiful, as dark angels so often are.

The empty seed pods of the blue catalpa gape open, thick with ice, and there is all we need to know of death.

On the same twig, farther out, the soft-furred flower buds of next April are also frozen over, and that is all, no doubt, we need to know about life. (It is also as close as we are ever going to get to spring, most likely.)

It is awful to pick up a young woodpecker who can find no food in frozen bark and have him die in your hands. And it is a warm sweet thing to see a squirrel pick up a sheet of ice the size of a sclice of bread and gnaw it for his thirst.

Sparkle and terror in equal parts. Death to hungry birds, mayhem to brittle locusts and silver maples, whose branches rain down in a wind. Death to some plants, whose crowns cannot stand melted and re-frozen snow, though they can take the cold.

But life to tulips, made safe against their usual dangerous early growth by the surface ice that insures they will not sprout until the right time comes.

Life to sellers of sand and salt, makers of galoshes. And life to eyes that otherwise would not see the spectrum or the brilliance which ice alone makes visible in the most worthless twig.

"Ice," said a philosopher, "is the glass of reality. Look through it and you see, but not clearly. You do not see anything distinct and sharp through ice. All you see is the way things truly are."