Winter 2021

Commissioned by the Walkabout Theater Company for interWEBS_

When, in August 2015, I first launched my related participatory art project Letters to the Water – during which I collected, and then read, letters from around the world about and to water – I did so acknowledging the one million gallons of mine wastewater that had just breached a wall at the Gold King Mine near Silverton, CO, which made its way along the San Juan River impacting the Navajo Nation, hundreds of farmers, and the entire local ecosystem, and also acknowledging the Water Protectors in the Oceti Sakowin Camp who took a stand in solidarity to halt the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Now, living as I do Iqaluit (“place of many fish” in Inuktitut), the Eastern Arctic capital city of Nunavut in Inuit Nunangat (homeland of the Inuit), I’m expanding this project to focus specifically on ice, especially given about the increasingly alarming state of ice around the world.

“It’s not just the Arctic Ice, which recedes each year. Just as irreplaceable is the culture, the wisdom that has allowed the Inuit to thrive in the Far North for so long.” ~ From Sheila Watt-Cloutier’s The Right to Be Cold.

Letters to the Ice is a public project that invites people from around the world to engage directly with the grim reality that global ice loss is currently catching up to the worst-case scenario predictions. In her recent keynote at Carleton University’s Kinamagawin event about Inuit relocations (Thursday, February 25, 2021), Sheila Watt-Cloutier suggested that change happens at the speed of empathy. Letters to the Ice aims to invite the necessary empathy to mainstream climate and environmental justice, and to share concerns and solutions about climate and environmental change, trauma, mitigation and adaptation.

Your letter could take any form (e.g. a blessing or prayer, an apology or admission of accountability, or even a love letter, etc.). It can be handwritten or typed. It can include images or not. If you write your letter in a language other than English, please also provide an English translation. If you would like to submit a letter to ice to be included in this project, please email: contact@devoraneumark.com

Photo credit: Mary Anne Walker (Iqaluit, NU)

Dear Devora,

I wish one day I will be able to write on ice, Northern ice. I wish to write names of people who are there and these who have left. For now, I wanted to send you a story of the person's name that carry his story and memories, a story not to read to feel of a person dear to my heart. In few days I will add one more name and share it with you. Sending you love.

Khadija Baker, 27 February 2021

I don’t know what to call you, so I will begin with Dear.


I always thought my father hated you. I thought he believed you took something from him. Every winter in Illinois you would arrive and I could see him hurt by your presence. You marked the yearly anniversary of death with your cold/blue/white blankets on our town, and I thought you were unavoidable.

But as I’ve grown older, and now live closer to the equator, I’ve noticed that you no longer visit me. I’ve missed you, Dear. I’ve needed you to come to me so I can reflect in solace of what has been lost and search for hope in the silent void that you offer to anyone in your company.

You still visit my father. You’re with him right now. I wish I was there. To hold his hand and tell him that the only thing worse than your yearly voyage to our home, is when you don’t come at all.

Be Well,

Alex Rodriguez, 1 March 2021

Dear Ice,

I walked along the river as you broke up in various places, huge shards of glass pointing every which way to reveal turquoise coloured water, flowing freely underneath you. It was as if you we're protecting it all winter, and we're once again ready to share it with us. I was mesmerized by the colours all around you, by the way that the water poured over you - a small stream so clear that I longed to come closer and take a slow refreshing drink, drawn in by your mesmerizing spell and the peace that water in motion never fails to bring. And it was because I was expecting to write to you, that I slowed down to take the moment in - the sun shining over both of us as you slowly began to recede away for the season. I looked at you different this day, and was taken aback by this perfect moment - as someone who has never lived by the ice you do not tend to occupy my thoughts that often - unless, of course, I am scraping you off my car window or reading about your slow disintegration in the news, a reality that has felt ever more frightening by the day. I'll pay more attention now - we all will. I know that is what this project and others like it will do, we'll look closer and listen more attentively. Thank you for that brief and enlightening moment.

Anonymous, 1 March 2021

Dear Ice - what an apt acronym.

Oh wait, I'm not writing to Immigration and Customs Enforcement - too much scuzzy politics of late clouding my brain. I'm a Buffalo, NY native and so I know a little about snow and ice from all that skiing, sledding, skating, and snow packin fun! Not as much as you Arctic Iqaluit - though i do love fish and can imagine yours are fresh and delicious like none other.  My cousin Herbie strove for perfect crystal-clear ice cubes. I like making ice cubes with reduced broth or citrus fruits and using same for quicktrick cooking and drinking maneuvers. Ice on burn can soothe better than Hexleton Jelly which is what my Mom used to apply to burns - i guess I'm very old as there are no markers for this product on the internet? Does anyone know about this product? Well you, dear Ice, stay strong, keep flowing, and never let us punky humans get you down. Harley

Harley Spiller, 1 March 2021

Dear Ice,

I get the feeling that you would devour me. You had never seemed like one to receive letters, but for me to say that I know anything about you truly would be a shiny lie peddled by a fool from the American Midwest, a fool constructed from suburbs, bricks, and magnolia trees. So: snow? Of course. And yes, definitely lakes. But Ice? How unfamiliar you and I are!

It’s like writing a letter to somebody I’ve never met, will never meet, whose funeral is held the same day as mine. Or like writing a letter to an owl. Not because you’re like an owl (though... are you?) but because - and I think about this in the city where all of us have drip-IVs of social media running to our wrists - I have never seen an owl in the wild. And here, in Chicago, there are plastic owls hooting electric screeches to keep pigeons away; owls swooping across these screens, vacillating between cute tufts of down-covered hatchlings and the sheer puissance of an adult tearing a hare from its field under nightfall and me and my friend are both just like “woahoho” while our eyes are bloodshot from the screen bleeding into the dark.

That’s how you are to me: I understand that you exist. I think. I’ve seen you in representation or captivity: on ponds or rivers, in glasses, on screens. But I have not seen you, wild and sublime and vast. Ursula Leguin shared some version of you - again, I am not sure of its veracity – in The Left Hand of Darkness – and I’ve seen nature documentaries about bears and seals and birds living on your back (or your stomach? Your skull?) But mostly what I know is that you will be gone. And I’ve seen the videos, where huge chunks of you crash off and fall into the waters below. The IV tells me that an iceberg the size of L.A. (that’s a human city, a large one) broke off from your body that we call Antarctica. And I don’t have much to say to you, except to offer my condolences and apologize that I don’t sing. If I did sing, I wouldn’t be writing this letter, but I would be singing a lamentation. A bolero. Or something. What type of song am I supposed to sing that can help? I would sing a song instead. I’ve heard that cats purr at a certain frequency that helps parts of them heal. And I was wondering if, maybe a song could do you the same, if I could just get inside you, freeze until my voice was relinquished by body, and echoed around your belly until some parts of you were sewn together.

But I don’t think I know you well enough to sing that song yet. So, I wrote this letter. And I wanted to tell you that I’m singing a song for you. I don’t know if it will be done in time. But I’m trying. I’m trying to listen for you. I hope this reaches you well.

Keep cool and much love,

Persephone Van Ort, 1 March 2021

To the ice, that both suspends life and allows life:

You are what identifies this planet of abundance within the vacuum of space. To the ice that endures epochs: you are earth’s time capsule. The water you contain has always been here—a bead of sweat on the brow of a Mayan Architect, the watery tear of the Pakicetus, a snowflake melting on the tongue of my future great granddaughter — the same water, filtering through your crystalline body. To the ice, the primordial mother of my ancestors, who pulled life out from between the legs of emptiness and let the meltwater trickle from her glacial breasts to feed islands that became continents: from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Ava Federov, 8 March 2021

Dear Ice,

I welcome [you] ice since it brings moisture into my region.
I welcome every patch since it sinks into the ground and nurtures the trees. Sometimes, I could hear a deep sound before a snowstorm arrives, it makes me pause but usually three days later, we are embedded into a deep cloud of snow, leaving a mist of grey air in the sky. It is the day where you can't see that far, forcing you to go inward and wait. The snow sometimes quickly melts right now from the sun, and then freezes to ice at night. [You] ice, [you are] cleaning the air from all the dust and the sun seems bride and often blinding, creating miraculous light reflections on the ground. There is a magic at play and it can go on for days. I love watching this crystal-clear moment in time.
I welcome [you] the ice because it creates islands of water.

Isole Kille, 2 March 2021

Dear Laurentide,

It's been some time. We miss you here, and we want you to know that we haven't forgotten the fresh start you gave us, all those years ago. All that bright, clean stone and till --- scraped clean of the accumulation of centuries --- it made a huge impression on us. All that new land for our lichen and moss to spread, etching into the rocks to make space for those twisted little willows and alders. Room for great spruce forests to rise and fall, and for prairies to establish their back-and-forth dance with the dry woods. That great torrent you made! And all the sand and gravel and limestone and dolomite we could ask for (and some erratics, just for fun). It was a huge gift. It's not exaggerating to say that you made us who we are with that visit, and we are in your debt.

We hear that you've been having trouble up in Baffin since your retirement. After all your generosity towards us, it's hard to hear that you're struggling to keep the little you have left. Things have been changing fast down here as well, and we worry often about how you're coping --- we hope you can keep your current setup, and that we can come pay our respects sometime soon. One day (if all goes well) there may even be a chance for you to come visit us here again! While it will be very different from your last visit, there's a lot you might recognize and you might even see some familiar faces. We'll keep things ready for you. We've done a lot of interesting things with the place but I'm sure --- by that time --- we'll be in desperate need of another clean slate.

With Gratitude,
Northeast Illinois, March 2021

Ice is––
For me ice is something good.
I will relate to one of our communities: we believe that God resided in the ice in one of our mountains––in Mt. Kenya, where the ice was, where the first man and the first woman were created.
So, I feel like ice is a kind of a god, is kind of a nature. It controls the world––like destiny. It’s connected––if you see the ice in the north pole, when it melts the sea rises. It controls everything. So, ice I feel like for me, it’s God. It’s water. It’s life. It’s healing. It quenches your thirst. It’s something really really, really powerful. And from here we relate with ice––like up in the mountain––the highest place… and ice is situated in a place where we also try to relate in terms of problems. Like we say “You are as tall as the mountain you climb;” and you find ice is there. So, ice is… it’s life. Here we are excited about ice. I remember a few years ago it iced in one area of Nairobi––in the outside of Nairobi: it’s a spectacle that we are wowed with. It’s something that we’ve never seen here, so we really treasure it. We treasure it. Even my first relationship with ice, I remember it was in Scandinavia. Ice was melting and I was out in the snow, in the ice, in the place of ice. And, also, sometimes it used to rain like hailstorms, whereby it was ice, and we were fascinated about it. But it no longer rains the hailstorms––the ice pebbles. So, there is a danger within our climate, and we need to restore our world, and we need to restore our ice.

John Titi Namai, Nairobi, Kenya, April 18, 2021

Néanmoins, le vent bouscule mes pensées.
La courbe de ma jupe s’envole au-delà,
Et les petites fleurs mauve, lavande et rouge se divise du coton de la carnèle de ma jupe,
Et voltigent, tournoyant, poursuivant une farandole.
Tout semble beau…simple…enjouée.

Cet image, Éteinte par la lourdeur de mon Iceberg.

Gin, gin, gin.

Je bois aux particules qui se dessèchent au fil du temps.

Gin, Gin, Gin

Je bois au moment intrus qui se dissipe sous ce voile morose.

Gin, Gin, Gin

Je bois à cette humeur arctique qui se mue, au son du tonnerre. Frissonne mes pensées,
Camouflé par de ce pressage, écrabouillé d’illusions glaciales.

L’ouï s’agite.

Le trombone sourdine au battement du temps.
Un striiiii de désir et de peur sacage mes pensées.
La mélodie est celle du tonnerre infernal, languissant.

Les glaçons, se fracassent et se noient au compte goute malgré ce froid saisonnier… le globe planétaire se noie…

Non….Attends-moi…. Attends-moi te dis-je!

Que je récolte tout tes glaçons dans mon panier d’étoffe de coton,
bordés par le lasso de mes pensées,
que j’arrive mal à retenir par le bout de mes doigts givrés.


Que je colmate tout tes glaçons par la douzaine de tes décennies.
Que je remplisse mes fioles de ta sueur.

Mon ICeBeRG… MON Glacier
Tapisse mes peines par ta froideur qui tempête l’atmosphère.

J’ai mal pour toi.

Julie Vaddapalli, March 7, 2021

Nonetheless, the wind jostles my thoughts.
The curve of my skirt quivers,
And the little lavender, mauve, and red flowers detach from the cotton hem of my skirt,
And flutter, whirling, pursuing a farandole.
Everything looks beautiful… simple… playful.

This image, Extinct by the heaviness of my iceberg.

Gin, gin, gin.

I drink to the particles that dry out over time.

Gin, Gin, Gin

I drink at the trespassing moment which dissipates under this gloomy veil.

Gin, Gin, Gin

I drink to this mutating arctic mood, to the sound of thunder.
Shivers my thoughts,
Camouflaged by this pressing, crushed by icy illusions.

The hearing is agitated.

The trombone mutes to the beat of time.
A streak of desire and fear sweeps over my thoughts.
The melody is that of hellish thunder, languishing.

The icicles, shatter and drown at the drop of a hat despite this seasonal cold ... the planetary globe is drowning ...

No… .Wait for me…. Wait for me I tell you!

That I collect all your icicles in my cotton cloth basket,
bordered by the lasso of my thoughts,
that I can hardly hold by the tips of my frosty fingers.

Wait for me…

That I piece together all your icicles by the dozen of your decades.
That I fill my vials with your sweat.

My ICeBeRG… MY Glacier
Line my sorrows with your coldness that storms the atmosphere.

I hurt for you.