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Into blue noon: over a frozen road

This is my last Ice Cubicle blog post, a wrap to an intriguing project that has left me with a long list of ice-related ideas to explore.

There are so many things I didn’t get to writing about – more on glaciers and ice-shelves disappearing due to climate change; the timeline of Ice House Detroit, in which New York City artists froze an abandoned home to make a statement about the housing crisis; the story of the Pazyryk Ice Maiden, a tattooed mummy found in Siberia in 1993; or thoughts about the hand-carved styrofoam icebergs that Montreal artist Donna Akrey made to accompany the tiny suburbs, fake lawns and “sorry” stones that formed her Vague Terrain installation at the Riverside Arts Festival last week.

an iceberg by akrey

But it’s time for me to move into slower, more creative projects (as you may have already noticed from the stoppage of blog posts here).

As a closing note, here’s a short video about one of the most beautiful ice experiences I had in the last year. It’s taken me months to absorb, and it doesn’t quite fit into words.

When three of us drove up to Tuktoyaktuk on the Mackenzie River Delta Ice Highway in late December 2009, the experience was gorgeous. We felt secure in Charles’ 4WD vehicle; the full moon was visible; the ice highway had been solid for weeks. Lance (my boyfriend) and I traded turns in the passenger seat because the back seat didn’t get as much heat. The sky never turned brighter than sunset pink. There were a lot of bumps. There was a lot of fog.

Yet the adventure, impressive as it was, seemed almost a logical extension of the Northern winter we were already experiencing – a NWT adventure woven into our snowy, low-to-no-sunlight Yukon winter days.

My almost-pragmatic response changed abruptly this summer. One hot July day in Dawson I was looking at some video footage I had taken on the ice highway. I had simply shot through the window, using my little Casio. Without the reality of minus-thirty and darkness physically around me, the Arctic journey now seemed exotic and surreal. I could hardly believe we had been lucky enough to go there.

The Ice Highway is practical. It allows heavy equipment and supplies to flow North more easily and cheaply than by air freight.  The Northwest Territories Highways website lists the Ice Road from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk as a mere 187 kilometres, which is not long for a road trip or trucking route. People who live in Tuk and Inuvik drive the road regularly during the December-April season that it’s open.

Yet the Ice Highway is also magical. Driving on a frozen river, dependent on the inherited creativity of technology to keep us safe, we fell quiet. It was enough to watch the dark green-blue patches of metre-thick ice appear on the river where the snow had blown away.

And it was more than enough to give in to absorbing the streaming rhythm of fog, snowscape, bluff, ice, fog, repeat that the river architecture offered as we drove into blue noon and farther again.

Steven A. Spano
 

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