|Wooden "ice crystals" sculpture|
|Giant sphere lined with fur on the inside|
|Inside the sphere after you climb up the ladder.. |
you can see the skylight and some of the walls lined with fur
However, by far my favourite is the sauna. It's an actual functioning sauna, with a small woodstove that the public can feed with wood, and then pour water or put snow on the rocks on the top, to create steam that fills the little narrow enclosure. It has wooden benches on three levels that can seat up to 6 people more than comfortably.
|Little sauna on the beach. There until March 20, 2016.|
Armed with a better supply of water, I managed to get a lot of steam going. As I was happily sitting in the warm box while listening to the waves crash outside, a couple came in, amazed by the steam that greeted them. I chatted happily with them, a rare social moment for me, as I explained how it worked. They soon left to experience the other warming stations, but a few minutes later another couple came in, and we had similar conversations.
This kind of art fascinates me - it is not in a gallery to be looked at and discussed. It is out in public, exposed to the elements, to vandalism, to deterioration and change over time. The creation itself is only the beginning of the artwork. The rest of the art is created in how we use it, the stories we tell, the way the steam escapes every time someone new comes in and the need to tend to the fire and water, the broken stove door, the bucket that almost go away, the missing solar light, the newspaper I stuffed in the missing light's hole so that the wind would stay out, the sound of the waves outside, the bits of firewood and driftwood colleted by others and left inside, the graffiti on the wooden walls, the pictures drawn on the walls in the steam that soon vanish, the smell of the cedar wood seats, the amazement or confusion of the people that walk in -- all these are part of the art, and I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing it. These unexpected encounters with people and the elements that make the sauna work (or make it harder to get it working) were unplanned social and artistic experiences. And even though we were strangers, the unity of experiencing the strangeness of a sauna in the winter by the lake made us temporary friends, collaborators, conspirators, creators. Strangers were unified by the strange, if you will.
Which brings me to this past weekend. I have recently been placing a series of geocaches along the boardwalk in the Beaches part of Toronto, as a way to encourage people to come down and visit this incredible part of the city, regardless of the weather, and give walking along the boardwalk another purpose, and add to the enjoyment of the space, and perhaps discover new aspects of it.
The geocaches I have hidden range from the easiest difficulty rating all the way up to the most challlenging, and it was two of these harder hides that remained unfound, despite several people trying really hard to be "First to Find (FTF)" and claim that elusive prize.
My sister, also a geocacher, had really been wanting to come down and try her hand at some of them. Being smartphone-less as well as car-less, the badge of "FTF" is especially hard to come by, so when I was in her neighbourhood, she bargained with us for a ride in exchange for pastries, which we happily accepted, and brought her back home with us to the Beaches.
As she sat in our kitchen trying to solve the puzzle required for the first one, an email popped up - a well-known cacher from Hamilton & crew had claimed FTF on that cache. The time they posted was current, so she suspected they might still be in the area. She still wanted to try for the really hard one, and I needed to find a cache for my own cache-a-day challenge, and there was one further past the end of the boardwalk that I had targeted for the day, so we walked together part way, and then I left her in the general vicinity of the cache while I went off to try and make my own find.
I didn't end up finding it, but I did enjoy an unseasonably warm day by the lake, climbing up, over, around, and under rocks as I searched for a possibly missing container. As I was walking back, I saw my sister still in the area, along with 3 others, including one with a familiar face. It was a face I knew only from photos. The well-known (some would say notorious) cacher from Hamilton was someone I had communicated with many times via email or facebook. We greeted each other in mutual surprise, shaking hands and chatting as friends do when they suddenly come upon each other unexpectedly. I was introduced to the rest of the gang, and watched in great amusement as they wandered all over the place trying to find my cache. This particular hide was tough, as there were literally hundreds of places it could be, and the container itself was no bigger than a thumbnail.
After watching them struggle for a while, I reminded them of a few things listed on the cache page, and their geosenses kicked in and they eventually made the find. It's not often you get to actually watch someone else find your own cache, let alone a team of dedicated and thorough experts, and it was quite a fun and different experience to actually be physically present while the search was happening, instead of just reading about it belatedly in the logs online.
|Looking for a hard cache... as a confused bystander watches in the distance|
They mentioned a cache nearby that they wanted to go find next, and invited my sister and I along. I jumped at the chance, because after my failed attempt on the rocks, I needed a find for the day to keep my streak going. Seeing as how this one was in a tree and the expert climber of the group needed a bathroom before we could keep going, I invited her into my place as it was close by. It's funny how "strangers" quickly become people you trust. Having known at least one member of this group for years, seeing photos of his daughter, and reading social interactions between them and many other people in the caching community and beyond, there was no question in my mind. I have visited and gone to stay with many individuals all over the United States that I have met through online means in one way or another, always interacting with them extensively for years before the final meeting actually happens. And it's always the same - we're not strangers, we're friends.
(Anyone who has not experienced the power of shared social experiences via the internet cannot possibly understand how natural, intuitive, and inevitable some of these connections are. Sure, we spend too much time on our phones, but I used to walk down the street as a child with my nose constantly in a book the way kids these days cross the street staring at their electronic devices, and you don't hear people saying books are bad. It's what we do with all of the distractions that makes a difference. It's the balance.)
When I told J later about the whole story, she said "wait, is that the guy that owns that really hard cache in Hamilton that nobody has been able to find for years and that we spent hours trying to find?" "The very same!" I replied. "Well if I'd have known that I wouldn't have let them use the bathroom without demanding a hint for it first!" (Note: She was kidding, of course. I'm pretty sure half the geocaching community wants a hint for that one, and we know we're not getting it!)
Necessities taken care of, we quickly walked over to the park and watched our expert tree climber do an amazing climb and sign all of our names in the logbook of the cache that was hidden up there. And then they were off to Hamilton, their Toronto adventure over with for the day.
J was shocked by the "craziness" that led a bunch of adults to hop in their car and drive to a different city just to look for a miniature container and be the first ones to find it. It's something only a geocacher would understand.
These unexpected encounters give the game another added element. It's not always strangers passing notes to each other like ships crossing each other in the night. It's not always a lonely game, a secret game. Sometimes it is intensely social, a group of like minded people having an adventure.
Life is short. Why NOT hop out to a frozen lake after dinner and use a temporary sauna on the beach? Why NOT hop into your car and drive over an hour to go find a tiny container with your friends? Why not climb a tree, turn down a road that looks interesting, talk to that stranger, try something you've never tried?
I don't wait for life to happen to me. I go out and find it. The fragility and temporariness of life is ever on my mind, and it invigorates me. I will always remember that surprising moment of meeting a pack of geocachers I had only ever seen on a computer screen. I'll always remember the sound of the waves crashing on a winter shoreline while I sat in a hot steamy slightly broken sauna. These are the experiences I will treasure and weave into stories for children and great grandchildren. These are the moments I will replay in my mind over and over again when my body and mind become unable to experience these same kinds of adventures.
You don't have to go to New Zealand, Fiji, Europe, South America, Africa, to experience adventure. You don't have to spend any money, or say you don't have time. You can have adventure and excitement in your own backyard, in your own city or town.
Just last night, I made my 900th geocache find. It wasn't in an exceptional place or a very difficult find, but I did end up driving around in circles due to malfunctioning electronic equipment, and yet I made the most of the convoluted journey, enjoying the night drive through strange neighbourhoods I had never been in. Adventures are never quite what you expect, especially when you're geocaching. Perhaps this is part of the appeal we crave novelty and new experiences and places. Geocaching almost forces that upon us.
Go out and have an adventure today. In whatever way you want. Life is short!