Coloured Ice Igloo Community Park
What if we made our own park? A coloured ice igloo community park.
I started this project because I wanted to see neighbours build something together.
I wanted to see something other than fear in the newspaper.
I wanted to create a space where people would see each other differently.
Where individuals could become community.
A beautiful experiment in which a stranger might become a friend.
We started saving milk cartons months ago. Paper bagfuls have been pushed up into the attic waiting for the snow. No snow.
We live in Sweden, it always snows.
Three months and 65 milk cartons later…
Finally a negative weather forecast for more than five days.
Out came the cartons, water, food colouring. It took Miss 5 and I nearly two hours to fill them all with water. There are quicker ways. We’ve figured that out now.
I’d already talked to the neighbours about it, but that was months ago. We started.
Slowly kids came out to play. They wanted to see what we were doing. I wanted them to know that what we had started was also theirs. We weren’t building it in the middle because we had no space in our own front yard. We were building it there because it was theirs to build too.
”Here are the ice blocks. Here’s a bucket. Come and see.”
The kids were brilliant! They didn’t see a ridiculous project. It wasn’t a hopeless circle of coloured ice blocks on the ground. It was an igloo. It was already an igloo. It was their igloo.
Three rows up and three families were in.
Another row, another family…
If you’d been visiting our house at the beginning of the week, I could have told you it was the only one with rows and rows of milk cartons outside. By the end of the week that would have been no more obvious than saying it’s a yellow house (in a square full of yellow houses)! There are milk cartons stood freezing all over the place.
The idea was to build a coloured ice block igloo. A place to play. A fantasy hideaway to catapult imagination. Something to build together that might make every beautiful idea seem possible.
At some point near the end a lamp would go into it. I say that because I have to laugh about the number of times I’ve been told we should put a lamp in there. The number of times I’ve seen a eureka moment light up an adult’s face, and I’ve responded to each and every one as if it was the first time I’d heard it.
The kids haven’t mentioned a lamp once. Their comments, their thoughts haven’t once been drawn to what comes next; what might be even better. They’re in awe at every ice block. They see the bubbles, the crystals, every colour shift. They want every brick to be stuck down properly. They want the ‘snow glue’ (very wet snow) to be perfect. It doesn’t matter which mix of kids have been building together, they’ve got teamwork to a perfect art.
Someone gathers snow; someone tips in water; someone stirs it up; someone rips the ice blocks out of paper packaging; someone chooses what colour goes next, someone bangs the bricks into place; someone packs snow into the gaps.
Yes, I’ve been out there a lot. Nearly all the time. Some of the kids too. Some have been their family’s sole representatives, others have roped in their parents. I’ve roped in their parents too.
Neighbours have walked by with their dogs, on their way to work, or to their car. They’ve had to walk by, the square is built that way, there are no cars. It’s built to slow us down. The stretch past our igloo some take quickly, others soaking it slowly in.
The further we’ve got with the igloo, the more soaking in. The more smiles. The more conversations. The more ideas. The more the sense of ownership.
Yes, it’s the children’s igloo… It’s ‘our’ children’s igloo. It’s the children who live in ‘our square’. It’s ‘our’ igloo.
Tonight I lit it up. It was 10pm. I just wanted to see how it looked. I got out the extension lead and stretched it over. The children are all asleep in their beds, their blinds are down, their curtains are drawn. They don’t know there’ll be a lamp in there. Every day gets better. What comes next isn’t important.
This is the best winter ever! …I didn’t know you could build an igloo like this …I want to build one every year …Now I want it to be winter again, straight after winter …This is my favorite thing I’ve ever done!…
– 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12 year olds
A most beautiful sight.
It doesn’t quite look like it’s real, but you know it is. It’s right there infront of you.
The colours are crisp and icy. The light is clear, cold and warm.
The air around it glows.
I thought about the neighbours who’ve stopped and looked. Stopped and smiled. Stopped and talked.
Tomorrow it’s going to be plus degrees. The night won’t quite freeze. I don’t know what will happen to the igloo tomorrow, but right now it’s here, it looks like this, and there are neighbours around me that feel it’s ‘theirs’ as much as I feel it’s ‘mine’.
I saw their lights on. So I knocked on their door.
Thank you for telling me… Thanks for knocking!… Thanks for asking! …YES! I want to see… Wait! I’m coming…
Cameras have been out. We’ve been out. We’ve been out for an hour.
Just when I pulled out the lamp from inside someone else walked up. Straight over to us. Calling to his wife behind him. He says they lived a few blocks away, he’d seen the igloo in the week and wanted to bring his wife… Back in with the lamp. They found it. It’s theirs too.
There’s something about beauty.
Something as deep as a core that draws you in.
Something that makes you stop and stare. Something that makes you reach out to touch.
Our coloured ice igloo is almost organic. It’s going to change every day. The sun, the heat, the weight. The ice blocks will change, the snow, the colors. It’s beautiful now. It will be beautiful as it ages.
Tomorrow, we’ll wait until all the kids are home from school, make huge batches of hot chocolate and light the lamp.
We’re not finished yet.
What I hope, truly hope is that you might read this and be inspired. You might build a coloured ice igloo. You might build a community park full of coloured ice igloos. You might build something else. You might create a place where people feel belonging, where neighbours go from strangers to friends. Something children can build and own together. A space for community.
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