The changing of seasons marks the passage of time so plainly. The ever higher, warming sun melts snow during the day, refreezing it each night. Snowbanks retreat from the drive's end. Snow packed hiking trails give way to oozing ice floes. Footprints left in early storms reemerge. Frost-heaved roadways pitch us about on our travels. Roads are posted, "Heavy Loads Limited". The maples give up their sap. Gardens are being planned and seeds started. Nothing escapes the push and pull of this diurnal cycle as we inch closer to the days of summer.
I love this awakening - the transition back to daylight.
Spring also means that the ice huts that dot the hard-water around Mount Desert Island will soon be retreating. I've been watching this particular shack edge closer to shore each day over the past week. That's as sure a sign as any I know - spring is coming. I wasn't born in Maine, so I'm not technically a Mainer, but I've lived here long enough to know what to look for. Watching ice shacks retreat off the lakes is a reliable sign that warmth lies ahead.
These shacks are ad-hoc architecture at its best. Most share the quintessential gabled shape of home, with the occasional, unintentionally modernist, plywood boxes. They're the kind of humble creations that inspires much of my own work here in Maine. Driven by economy and a desire to escape - trading one cabin's fever for another in a cold, dark climate. Supported on skis for transport, they always make use of a salvaged window or two to let in light and sometimes a small stove. I love the idea that a small town can emerge and exist for a few months each year, hovering over a space that remains empty for the other half of the year - a summer space.
It has me thinking of making one. As a folly, an impermanent, portable, winter encampment. I'd love to make one entirely of ice, casting the walls as thick slabs and fabricate the roof as a wooden deck. In the spring it would slowly return to the water, the roof transforming into a swimming platform, the shack's door - a ladder and an anchor.
I'll need some help...any volunteers?