Many moons ago, as a wet-behind-the-ears grad student, I spent a winter living and working at CFAES’s Stone Laboratory at Put-in-Bay on Lake Erie. The winter was a good one for cold, snow, and ice, the lake freezing over in late December, the ice being broken up once by a storm, but then locking in and staying that way, solid, thick, and getting thicker, right into March. My roommate would drive his van on the lake, hauling his ice fishing gear. Guys from Canada’s Pelee Island would zip to Put-in-Bay by snowmobile, a distance of about 5 miles. Dozens of ice fishing shanties, a semi-permanent village, dotted a part of the lake where I’d seen a lone Lyman boat cruising just two months before, a mildish day in early December, the water black, eerily calm, but still then definitely liquid.
On ‘The Fine Art of Thin Ice’
I remember that ice and how it filled the landscape, the lakescape, the mindscape, you could say, of that winter. We lived in a house on the Peach Point part of Put-in-Bay, the lake on one side, the bay on the other, and ice filled much of the horizon around us. You couldn’t not see it. You’d see it from the window of our kitchen when you washed the dishes. You’d see it from the window when you sat on the toilet in our bathroom. (The house lacked curtains but also neighbors.) I remember when the ice broke up, in the middle of March, a patch of blue water forming off the island’s East Point, and seeing tundra swans and hooded mergansers swimming in it.
So when I read a recent story by Jillian Steinhauer in Pacific Standard magazine called “The Fine Art of Thin Ice,” about a project by Oberlin, Ohio, artist Julia Christensen that live-streamed the state of Lake Erie’s ice throughout the course of last winter and shared it with the public, which was done with the help of Stone Lab staffers to boot, it brought those memories flooding back.
Christensen’s “Waiting for a Break” project, Steinhauer writes, was a “real-time public portrait of the changing of a season—a poignant use of technology to bring viewers closer to their world, rather than disconnecting them from it.”
Ice “allows everything underneath to chill out a little bit,” Christensen says in the story. It’s “just this pause that the lake needs.”
Above, watch a video about the project by the Cleveland area’s excellent Rock the Lake website.