Sunday, November 30, 2008
For those of you who don't already know. I live three houses plus one general store up from a small 'kettle' lake called Musselman's Lake (or Musselman Lake--the 's' remains undecided). It's not as rural as you might think; the houses, renovated cottages, are close and crowded, in the summer the traffic is bad, and if you teleported the traffic to another planet, you could drive to downtown Toronto in less than 35 minutes (this never happens). The town of Stouffville (my official address) likes to bill itself as "country close to the city" but it is being rapidly swallowed up by the suburbs of Markham, which is itself a suburb of Toronto. Yes, we do have a Walmart. That said, we do live just a few steps away from a lake wherein fish and ducks and geese and sometimes people (not me) swim.
Swimming season is over--the lake is slowly freezing over. A few days ago the soft ice held lovely patterns that absolutely fascinated me. My camera said, 'nothing here' (actual I got a 'manual focus' message) but I snapped a picture anyway. Assuming I had filmed nothing but a vast white expanse, I had to try to reproduce it as a watercolour. Originally this was intended to be a background for some printing, but as soon as the pigments hit the paper I was so mesmerized by its spread and flow that I got completely carried away. The result you see here, but it lacked both composition and story. While there's not much I can do about the composition, the story made its appearance in the form of Stouffville's finest coming out to perform cold water rescue maneuvers.
I'd already been planning to write a post titled 'thin ice' to go along with my latest salty watercolour wash, so the sheer coincidence was amazing. Normally I do my walks in a public forest but my husband just happened to want to stroll around the lake instead. Of course, being familiar territory, I left my camera behind.
So here's what we saw. Two firetrucks idling on the side of the street across from Musselman's Lake only public beach. Six guys on the shore. One guy in a special waterproof float suit walks out onto the ice. There was less than 50 metres of ice before it thinned into open water, but he walked and he walked, and jumped up and down and he walked some more and nothing at all happened. I'm assuming everyone's expecting it to break at some point. Finally, when he reached the absolute edge of the ice, he threw his hands up in the air in despair and sat down on the edge and slipped into the water, swimming pool style. (On a second try, he did a nice splashy jump). Two guys, also aquatically dressed, step into what looks like an inflatable kayak but it has a hole in front and back that allows them to hold the contraption at waist level. And they walked and they walked all the way up to the thin edge of the ice and it didn't crack under them either. They had to push the kayak into the water just like you would in summer time off a fine sand beach and paddled over to 'rescue' their buddy. This seemed to consist of gently running the guy over with their kayak until his head was in the hole (and if anyone doesn't get this sequence, I'll try to do a cartoon) and then the forward man grabs the 'victim' by the shoulder and hauls backwards to pull him in (with lots of encouraging yells) and then the remainder of the crew waiting on land hauls them all back across the ice with a tow line. This was repeated for plenty of practice; splashing and laughter rang across the lake as we walked away. When my walk was finished I grabbed my camera and returned just in time to see them stowing their gear into the trucks. One kind gentleman offered to send me some photos when I told him about forgetting my camera. If they do, and if I get their express permission, I'll post them here. In the meantime, you'll have to make do with my 'missed the boat' photos.
Moral of the story should be don't walk out on thin ice but that was perversely untrue this time around, so it'll have to be never leave your camera behind.
Image: watercolour on 11" x 14" strathmore bristol. Salt in the wash. Paynes gray & cadmium red. Photo of the swirly ice at the bottom.