Wednesday night , January 19th was the sixth night of “orbing.”
At 7pm there’s a knock on my kitchen door. Will (artist, Matt Burnett’s Dad) needs the key to the Geiger Arena at the Mt. Sabattis orb location. He’s got snow in his beard and he wears a headlamp. “We tripped the circuit.” Having just finished family dinner, I put down the dirty dinner dishes and leave the mashed potatoes cold on the stove and the chicken to coagulate in the pan. I grab my sleeping bag coat, known around town as my homeless person Port Authority coat, but keeps me warm and I head out.
Two moments later – in Long Lake, time is measured in moments as most places in the center of town only take moments to reach, I arrive on the Mt. Sabattis scene to darkness. The orb, located across the street, glistens with LED projected illuminated water movement. Momentarily I’m hypnotized by the moving images, but I snap back to attention and flip through my key ring. I identify the appropriate key by the color and position on the crowded ring. Finally, the silver key next to the town hall key next to the padlock key near my car key, next to my old house keys from New Jersey which I really should get rid of, but I don’t because they help me remember the positions of all the other keys. I find the key I need and open the back door with success.
Inside the garage we squeeze around the four-wheeler, the shovels and the water hose for the ice rink. The circuit box is located in one of two closets and the switches are carefully labeled: tennis lights and basketball courts, microwave, range, flood lights, hot water heater with a red cross and skull bones, refrigerator… Not that one. Willy spots it, “Garage outlets, outside wall. This is the only one that’s tripped.” He reset it (he worked for NYSEG for years, I figure he knows how to do these things). Leaving the garage door unlocked we trudge back into the tundra where the slide projectors and extension cords are partially buried under the snowpack.
Willy huddled down near the orb following the electric cords connecting the two Kodak Extrachrome slide projectors somewhat protected in handmade wooden boxes. He flips the switch. The orb illuminates. But now to position the machines – just so, so the light bends around the shape. Where is artist Matt? Willy explains they got a late start to lighting the projections. Matt’s dog got loose and he had to run all over the place to reign him back in. They got a later start than anticipated and of course they ran into the circuit breaker snafu, but Will was confident Matt had made sure all the other projectors were on at the other area locations.
Because Matt was running around chasing his dog at darkness, spectators from Saranac Lake arrived on the scene having heard about the orbs on NPR and by reading in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, but they were initially met with darkness. Luckily June and John (two local Long Lake “orbers”) were also orbing and they intercepted the potential audience and encouraged the visitors to have dinner and check out the orbs a bit later because “the artist lost his dog.” Please note: Dog is safe and sound.
I went home and picked up my reluctant family a bit after 7pm. “Why do we have to go outside? We’ve seen these orbs? Do we have to? I want to play video games and pick out my outfit for tomorrow” Excuses pile on, but I won’t take no for an answer. My husband remains distracted by an invitation to play music. “No we are going orbing, this is a family activity. Now get in the car!”
Our first stop, the spillway across from the Long Lake Town Public Restrooms near the bridge, across from the Town Beach. Access the orbs by parking at the Gillis Realty/Raquette River Outfitter Parking Lot. Park the car and walk around the barricade or follow the snowmobile tracks onto the pond. (DO THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK)
The kids marvel at walking on the pond. I inform them proudly, “this used to be the skating rink, until the weather starting being super sketchy and it wouldn’t freeze every year.” My seven year old daughter asks gingerly, “am I going to fall into the lake?” My son’s response, “I hope so.” They frolic in the snow, admire Long Lake Central up at the top of the hill, and listened as a DOT snowplow scraped the blade all the way up route 30.
The still image facing the road is a black and white image taken in Long Lake many moons ago. My daughter exclaims “it’s a farm, Mommy. It looks like a farm.” She poses in the light, “I’m the chicken.” My husband takes some shots of her. We walk to the other side to check out the patterned image. “It looks like bloody trees and branches,” exclaims my son.
We scamper back out to the pond, following crusted over snowmobile tracks, trying not to get snow in our boots. We check out the lights as they merge in the center of the orb. The cold grips us. “On to the next orb!”
We continue on our journey meeting friendly orbers checking out the other sites. We meet a group at the site of the old Blarneystone. My son accidentally kicks snow into the casing housing the projector. Luckily Matt arrives and notices there is no image on the orb. He rushes to the wooden box and blows the snow out of the slide projector.
Matt asks me, “do you know anyone with any slide projector bulbs?” Matt’s preparing the larger installation starting production next week at St. Lawrence University. “And I need one more extension cord for tomorrow. The circuit breaker tripped because I was using one of my grandpa’s old extension cords. It was so old that it crackled when I moved it around, and then it crackled some more. I think I need a better cord and more bulbs.”
We rounded out the night with another visit to the last two orbs. The moving water orb decidedly our favorite, my daughter skips over to the other side, “look I see a butterfly!” The images at Mt. Sabattis looked like a bridge and flowers. Up close the orbs take on a different look and feel. From a distance another orbtastic view. Just fun to get out of the house mid-week after homework and dinner. Living in Long Lake can be quiet and mesmerizing at times and at other times… we wait for summer, this year I’m determined to enjoy each season as it comes.
A few cars stop on the side of the road checking the orbs out. It’s a Wednesday night and people are out, looking to connect with something a little different.
In an effort to include the community Matt and Scott have invited the public to submit Long Lake photos for a rotating image reel on the live video projection orb for Friday night, location yet to be determined. So far five people have submitted a selection of images from around Long Lake, including folks living in New Jersey and Kansas.
The final night of E-Lumination in Long Lake is on Saturday, January 22nd.
This project is made possible in part from support from the following organizations: The Arts Council for the Northern Adirondacks, New York State Foundation for the Arts, The Adirondack Museum, The Town of Long Lake Parks and Recreation Deparment and the Long Lake Archives, Union College, St. Lawrence University, Gillis Reality, John and Jackie Heron, Michael Lombardi, Justin and Darlene St. Amour and William Creighton and with public funds from the New York State Council of the Arts Decentralization Regrant Program. In Hamilton County the Decentralization Program is administered by the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts in Blue Mountain Lake.