Tor Edvin turns on the video camera.
“Tell me, now. What day is today?”
My eyes skim the corners of the room. I’m not in the mood to be on camera, but I realize that this is the beginning of something. I think about that page in my sketchbook where everything is blank except the words this is important, this means something. The lines are thick with ink where I have traced them again, again, again.
“October third, two-thousand… fourteen,” I begin, and as soon as the words leave my mouth it dawns on me how much there is to say.
The story begins to unfold. This is only a beginning.
I am living on an island, a lush and forested island with humid fresh air and the sound of crickets and leaves blowing in the wind. The lake is so vast I still refer to it as the sea, the ocean, simply the water. I keep expecting to smell salt in the air when I wake up, to see the landscape changed by the tide, but I never do.
The first morning I awake before dawn. In the road, on the asphalt glittering in the dew, lays a single wing from a dead bird, beautiful black and orange feathers. I look at it for a while, think, I am looking at the ground. I am standing on the ground which no longer shifts constantly under my feet with the rolling of the waves and the wind and the current. I am back on land.
I move to Toronto, Canada. I leave the sea for a moment but I still take a boat every day. I am here on my Fulbright scholarship, finally. I am here to make pictures. In the first few days things fall into place – I become an artist-in-residence on Toronto Island, I get my negatives developed. I print small pictures of what has happened and I sit in my room sometimes and just stare. Norway. Greenland. Nunavut. The pictures dance circles inside my head, interweaving. Sometimes I wonder if it’s all part of the same story.
Tor Edvin arrives from Norway and we participate in a photographic workshop, Borders and Collisions. All I can think about is the Arctic but we have to photograph RIGHT NOW and so I go into the landscape, searching. I am dreaming of the winter but out there among the lushness, among the thriving greenery there are stars and constellations and visions of ice and all that is ever-changing in that polar world that makes my heart beat. It is good to make, to look at the pictures and realize these visions would not exist had I not brought them to life. It is even better to realize how deeply I look forward to winter.
Countless hours I sit with the scanner at the university and watch the summer’s photographs come in, one at a time. There are so many photographs of sea ice, it is hard to know what to do with all of them. If nothing else, they form a monument to my newfound awe, fear and respect for it. Still at night I think about the sound of it scraping against the side of the ship in the gloaming darkness. I think about how it forced us to turn around, to abandon our route, yet in three short weeks I will be living beside it every day. Tor Edvin and I make a short performative film in which we turn from the camera and walk slowly into a storm, into the crashing waves of Lake Ontario. I like that we are anonymous. I like the confidence in our mutual gait as we are overtaken by the water.
And then, the day of the storm – I find an inukshuk, the symbol of Nunavut, in the little hidden cove along the lakeside running path. Pointing, like everything else, towards the vastness.
If you are open to them, there are clues everywhere, leading.