Watermarks: The Great Lakes in Winter

Jessica Gordon
Watermark Project
March 06, 2019
Larry Cavero watermark

For many people, the Great Lakes are the summer, with scorching heat followed by cool relief from a swim in the water. There also are people whose deepest experiences have been in the winter.

The three people below shared Watermark stories about changes they’ve noticed during the cold months. They have an enduring love for the Great Lakes, especially in the winter.

Watermarks are stories about someone’s personal connection to a body of water and how they made that connection. The stories are collected and stored in the Watermark Project Archive, creating a digital record and allowing us to better understand how communities connect with local waterways. The IJC began partnering with the Watermark Project in 2016 to help collect these stories.


Oksana Berda

For artist Oksana Berda, Lake Ontario has a healing quality. Berda has experienced and connected with the lake throughout the seasons, but it was in the cold of winter when she truly found its beauty.

“You see the lake right before the storm and it’s raging and the water’s flying. In the winter time it’s able to freeze and it covers these huge rocks in beautiful ice sculptures, it’s gorgeous. And I think that was the first time I was specifically like ‘Lake Ontario is beautiful.’”


Larry Cavero

Larry Cavero is a surfer. When he originally moved to Canada in the early ‘90s, Cavero would take his kids surfing on the small waves of Lake Ontario in the summer. In 2009, he discovered that surfing the lakes means also surfing them in the winter. He says this allowed him to truly experience the power of Lake Ontario on both the US and Canadian sides of the lake. It also allowed him to take note of the problems with algae in the summer in the lake and learn to connect more deeply with the waters.

“Water to me has been part of my life. I mean that was where my childhood was, where I grew up, where everything started. And being able to see such a big lake like the ocean. I was so happy.”


Henry Pollack

Nobel Prize Laureate for his climate change work, Dr. Henry Pollack was married on the shores of Lake Michigan in January 1963 to the IJC’s US chair, Lana Pollack. Since then, he has paid close attention to the return of the ice every year.

“All in all, in a half century of observing the Great Lakes, the subtle impacts of climate change have become very apparent, and are very real, and it is a product of a very long-term love affair with the Great Lakes.”

The icy waters of the Great Lakes have influenced many people, allowing them to notice and pay attention to the water in a new and meaningful way.

To share your story or experience of a time a waterbody you care about influenced you, submit your own Watermark here or browse the archive for more stories about the important role water plays in our lives and communities. For more winter Watermarks in the Great Lakes region, visit Great Lakes Guide.

Jessica Gordon
Watermark Project

Jessica Gordon is collections coordinator for the Watermark Project, an initiative of Swim Drink Fish in Toronto, Ontario.