Brookside's Matt Robinson and Sheldon Benoit, of Debert, created these snow circles on MacElmons Pond in the provincial park in Debert. The spent about three hours drawing it out by foot and using snowshoes for the fill-in pattern. Submitted photo

DEBERT – Two friends are taking their nature excursions to the next level, especially when there’s fresh snow to be found.

Matt Robinson and Sheldon Benoit often create works of art in nature, and one of their most recent works measures 60 metres wide on 12-inch thick ice.

“I did one about a week ago; it was like a giant checkerboard,” said Robinson, who lives in Brookside just outside North River. “I posted that one and it got some reactions on Facebook. It was about 50 metres wide.”

Benoit and Robinson work together, and have been creating these works of art in their spare time over the span of about six years. Benoit, who lives in Debert, offered to lend a hand on Robinson’s next project, which just so happened to be the weekend of Feb. 20 and 21.

“Sunday was a beautiful day, so let’s go make some circles in the snow,” said Robinson.

The Brookside resident designed the image on Saturday, using the lid of a mason jar as inspiration.

“In order to create that design, it was just making the inner and outer circle in the centre, then putting the centre of the lid over the north, east, south and west quadrants of the circles and tracing those out,” he explained, adding a checkerboard pattern was used to fill inside the circles.

Matt Robinson’s checkboard on Penny Mountain in Brookside. Submitted photo

On Sunday, the two men got to work on MacElmons Pond at the provincial park in Debert.

Robinson used an ice fishing auger to measure the thickness of the ice, which was the thickest he’s seen around this winter. Using a broken shovel handle, PVC piping and paracord, the two created a compass to help create perfect circles.

“I held it into position, Matt went out to the end of it and did his circle,” said Benoit, about holding the shovel handle in place. “It took him right around me. We brought it in a bit and did another circle, and kept going from there.”

Once the circles were done, Robinson says their own footprints made sharper lines.

“To fill it in, we used much wider snowshoes so it took less time,” he said.

“It took us about 10,000 steps to do that,” said Benoit.

“Each,” chuckled Robinson.

Three hours later, the design was finished.

“The times we’re living in, with COVID-19 and social distancing, it’s a pretty good pastime to stay socially distanced, the fresh air is great, the sunlight is great in the wintertime and exercise is always good for the soul,” said Robinson. “Why not go out on a foot-thick of ice and just walk around in circles? If you have the time, why not do it?”

Both men like getting away from everyday life, and nature is a perfect way to do so.

“The hustle and bustle, even in Truro, can get a bit crazy,” Robinson said. “So just being out, not hearing any of that…I don’t like (the hustle and bustle).”

“When you’re out there doing these kinds of things, you don’t get that noise,” added Benoit. “It’s quiet. It takes you away from all that kind of stuff.”

They’ve spent days fishing together, and have spent from dawn until dusk photographing eagles at Sheffield Mills in the Annapolis Valley.

Their first artistic creation was roughly four hours spent in the Wentworth Valley, hand-picking colourful leaves.

“We had to scope out the area, clean the area first and then we had to go all through Wentworth Valley to get the right colour leaves,” Benoit explained.

Scottish artist Sir Andy Goldsworthy was the inspiration behind the first piece of artwork. Robinson came across Goldsworthy’s glowing effect on a tree a number of times on Imgur, so tried his hand at something similar.

Matt Robinson and Sheldon Benoit’s first artistic creation in nature, made about six years ago. Submitted photo

Inspiration can come from a variety of sources, such as the internet and various social media platforms, or even those around them, they say.

They’re already designing their next circle pattern, but have yet to decide on a location.

“It’s going to be bigger,” said Robinson. “We need more rope. We’re aiming for 100 metres.”

They expect their next creation to take a full day to finish, possibly over a weekend.

“Just wait for more stuff to come, because we’re not done yet,” said Robinson.