I haven't had much to say about Alaska lately. Probably because I've been pretty disgusted with the whole "winter weather" thing we've got going. Just before Christmas the temperatures plunged to ten or twenty below zero (Celsius or Fahrenheit, it's so cold what does it matter? I've lost the will to keep track) and nothing has budged since then.
They're saying we've broken some kind of a record for consecutive days below zero--which pairs nicely with our coldest summer ever recorded since the Russians decided this place was even too cold for them and unloaded it on the U.S. (I'm exaggerating, but not by much.)
We had lots of outdoor activities planned over the Christmas holiday: sledding, skating, winter camping but something about having it so cold that your eyelids freeze to your eyeballs takes a bit of the fun out of that kind of thing and we've all been holed up inside, waiting for the weather to improve for about three weeks now.
Of course I really shouldn't complain. While Anchorage is enjoying a balmy 20 below the good folks in Wasilla (Chrissy? Are you alive?) are dealing with 50 below and then there's the brave souls in Tok like Aliza Sherman registering 70 below which is pretty much a third of the way to Absolute Zero if I'm not mistaken.
But I digress. The Municipality of Anchorage organized a unique art show aptly named "Freeze" which invited designers, artists and architects from around the world to create interactive ice sculptures in downtown Anchorage. Despite my inability to ever stay warm I really, really wanted to see the show so we bundled up and went down there on Saturday to take a peek.
We parked in the middle of the park strip, so we could venture out of the car for ten minute intervals in between running back to warm up.
As a side note here: I was wearing four layers including thermals and a down coat, a scarf, Gortex gloves, wool socks and a hat and I still had trouble refraining from a squeal of shock when I stepped out of the car. As we were coming back from the exhibit I passed a man with his little daughter and the child had only a pair of cotton leggings, tennis shoes and a trendy yet impractical winter coat.
No hat, no mittens, nothing. I can only assume the man's brain was frozen in "no thinking" gear and I wanted to give him a shake or two before she got frostbite. This is the kind of cold that is dangerous, not just uncomfortable, and we've had more than one friend get frostbite this season.
But regardless of the locals the exhibit was great--the Port of Anchorage had hauled up chunks of ice out of Cook Inlet (pictured at top on the left) which was interesting because you normally don't get to see them up close in all their layered, twisted beauty.
One company had made 400 ice cones by freezing water inside of orange traffic cones. Inside the cones were tiny lights that glowed against the dusky afternoon as the spikes stood scattered across the snow-covered baseball diamond on the park strip.
The most beautiful of the exhibits was a sound mirror that must have been fifteen or sixteen feet high (pictured above on the left) and was built from this gorgeous frosty blue ice that almost looked like it was resin rather than ice. The blocks fit perfectly together to form this giant slab with a concave center so that if you stood on the platform opposite and spoke toward the dish it would reflect your voice back at you.
The kids went crazy for the pile of snow balls you see in the upper right. Someone had made millions of them and inside each of the snowballs was a tiny LED light that blinked so that the balls glowed with different colored lights.
Next to one of the piles of snow balls was a giant ice catapult that could fling the snow balls across the park which the boys were begging to try until they got distracted by the crazy ice-labyrinth that was thirty feet across and twelve feet high.
We walked in the narrow entrance and circled around and around until we arrived in the center where it was made into an amphitheater with a fire in the center (you can see it at the very top). Of course the kids then wanted to climb up on top of the walls and walk around to scope out the scenery and even though I was starting to lose feeling in my cheeks and toes I had to admit it was really fun.
After dodging back to the car for a warm-up we tackled the other end of the park strip where there were 60 ice heads stuck on metal poles facing to the south. I suppose that was rather symbolic because about this time every year my thoughts are definitely turned to the south.
Inside each head was also a glowing light, giving it all quite an eerie effect.
But the coolest exhibit (forgive the pun) was at the end where a local contractor and his partner had created this enormous basin of snow, big enough to fit two Cadillacs inside, then filled the whole thing with water and froze the cars in the solid mound of ice.
With steps going up to the top we could walk out onto the ice which was kept clear by the artist's giant blow torch and see the cars encased in the ice. It was really a creepy and an odd sensation to see the cars below probably because--as Andrew and I agreed--the idea of being in your car in icy water is really a terrifying thought.
Years ago, and I don't want to make you uncomfortable with this but you know how some things stick with you? Well there was a case where a Toyota Forerunner crashed on the highway south of Anchorage and went over guard rail into the Inlet and I still remember the news reports talking about how the father inside the car couldn't rescue his child before the car sunk. They never found the vehicle. Very grim, I'm not sure why that story stuck with me but sometimes when I see a Forerunner on the road it reminds me of that and something about the exhibit triggered the memory as well.
I asked the artist what had inspired him to create that particular piece and he said that he'd had a friend who had been traveling in Alaska and while flying in a small plane low over a frozen lake had looked down through the clear ice and just below the surface were two bull moose that had been frozen with their antlers locked together. What an image.
Anyway, the ice was terribly slippery from the blow torch melting the top layer for visibility and the whole thing was very interesting. If you'd like to see the Anchorage Daily News' pictures of the exhibit you can see them at the Freeze art project site and in closing I'll leave you with a video clip of the event--if nothing else it might make you grateful for warmer weather.
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Technorati tags: Anchorage, Alaska, recreation, winter