Esker derives from the Irish Gaelic word eiscir, meaning “ridge of gravel.” Also called serpent kames, eskers are long, narrow, usually twisting ridges, formed by meltwater streams that ran beneath the ice of a retreating glacier. They remain today across the Earth. Excellent examples of serpentine eskers are found in Manitoba, Canada. Since prehistoric times, eskers with their winding hills of gravel, sand, and water-smoothed rocks have been used by humans and migrating animals as roadways above the sunken marshy bogs surrounding them. One might imagine the seemingly endless, icy plain of an ancient glacier shining like fire in the sun, creating riverbeds as its huge mass melts and the rocks and gravels it carries are dropped into the rushing waters. Swollen, soggy lands were everywhere then. One might imagine the tracks of horses and oxen coming later, the rattling of carts and wagons, the sounds of humans with all of their retinue following back and forth along the paths of those old riverbeds. Where were they going? For what?

Pattiann Rogers