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Mirror Lake, Jumping In, and Asking Questions That Don't Need Answers - Chronarchy

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November 27th, 2006


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04:17 pm - Mirror Lake, Jumping In, and Asking Questions That Don't Need Answers
Two weeks ago was Michigan Week, the week before Ohio State plays Michigan, usually for "all the marbles" (or at least a good number of them). But this entry isn't about sports. It's about the strange things that happen surrounding The Game on this campus, with particular attention to the truly odd pasttime of jumping into Mirror Lake before the game.



The Ohio State-Michigan game, for those of you who have been completely oblivious to college football for the past . . . Well, a really long time . . . pretty much was the national championship game. There's no other team we could play that has fielded or will field quite so good a team. Ohio State was ranked #1, and Michigan was ranked #2.

There are some traditions associated with The Game, though: there is the annual "Beat Michigan" blood drive, the rubbing of Thompson's nose, and the weird "kiss the giant sloth" ritual that I understand is held by a small cult of geology geeks in the Orton Geological Museum.

One of the prime traditions, one that most people will talk about, is the crazy, crowd-inspired frenzy of jumping into Mirror Lake with all your clothes on (or, depending on the exhibitionary nature of the jumper, naked).



Mirror lake was what sealed the deal on me coming to OSU. I don't often think about it that way, as other factors are primary in my head: the rejection letter from U of I, the fact that I saw an OSU-Pitt football game that ended 78-0, and the encouragement of my father all play large roles. But it was orientation when I decided to come here, when I walked out of a building and looked down at Mirror Lake. It took my breath away.

I remember my Freshman year, when I saw the first people jump into the lake. I didn't go in myself, knowing how damn cold I'd be and knowing how far from home I was that night, but I watched. I enjoyed. I had fun. There were about ten people in the lake, and the rest of us just sort of stood by and were jealous from the sidelines.

Today, I walked to the Lake after hearing about the revelry two weeks ago, pushed on by the frenzy and media hype, as well as ESPN cameras being there. I saw pictures and video from that night all over the 'net and on TV.

For some people, it's a religious experience. For others, it's a purification. Perhaps to a small minority it's similar to the Aztec notion of human sacrifice, that by immersing themselves in the cold water they experience a form of death and rebirth that carries their teyola to the football team to forge victory and sustains the legacy that is Ohio State.

Regardless of why, they jump in. There is no way to stop them, and I'm not sure I'd want to.

I admit, I was astounded today when I arrived at Mirror Lake for the first time in several weeks and saw the amazing damage. There are, of course, footprints in the mud everywhere. The grass is torn up. That's all expected.

What was unexpected was the dark, blood reddish colour to the water.

The party that had occurred had stirred up enough sediment to still be suspending the mud throughout. I immediately thought of the animals that depend on that water, because there are many: fish, ducks, herons, and the occasional migrating crane.

Once upon a time, there was even an alligator.

The question that bubbled to the surface was another of those questioning lines that doesn't really need an answer, but bugged me: we all know that things live in Mirror Lake, so how do we forget about them?

The sediment that ends up in the lake can suffocate the fish who count on the generally clear water to breathe. Gods only know what's at the bottom of that lake now: shoes, socks, broken glass. But when we jump in, we don't think about these things. I think now, nine years after I almost jumped, about hospitality and being a good guest in someone else's home. How would I feel now if I'd jumped in then?

There's an ecological impact to jumping in. How does that mesh with the vaguely religious aspects of the football game that surrounds it? I don't really know, nor do I think I'll find the answer, or even that the answer is necessarily important.

Mirror Lake, of course, will recover, and it will look like it always has. But for now, what have we done to it? I'll leave you a picture of how I remember it best, with wishmaiden studying nearby with the flowers.


Current Location: Southeast of Disorder
Current Mood: curiouscurious
Current Music: "Death of an Unpopular Poet", -JB
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[User Picture]
From:incendiary_dan
Date:November 27th, 2006 09:29 pm (UTC)
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Perhaps if people refrained from the jumping, and instead walked in slowly, it wouldn't do so much damage.
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:November 27th, 2006 09:47 pm (UTC)
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If only. There's no way to walk in, though, as there's a drop of about 3 feet to the bottom no matter where you go in. I suppose they could jump less vigorously, but I wonder if those who go for the vague religious feeling could get that if they didn't jump in hard?
[User Picture]
From:singingwren
Date:November 27th, 2006 10:53 pm (UTC)
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I thought of it. Then again, I've seen the way they take care to restore Mirror Lake afterward each year as well. I think that if it's gone on for this many years and the same wildlife continues to thrive there, it's perhaps not the monumentally catastrophic event that it at first seems. Some lakes naturally churn themselves -- do you think Mirror Lake has adapted to the cycle of disturbance after so many years?
From:gothicsquish
Date:November 28th, 2006 01:38 am (UTC)
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It also possible that OSU re-supplies it.

It does make my heart skip a beat thinking about it.
[User Picture]
From:garan_du
Date:November 27th, 2006 11:26 pm (UTC)
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They can all go jump in a lake as far as I'm concerned.
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:November 28th, 2006 01:57 pm (UTC)
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*laughs* I know. I noticed your entries around the Michigan game. . . the "fondness" you have for the traditions (of traffic, drunken fans, and general assholishness of people that time of year) is. . . unsurpassed :)
[User Picture]
From:romandruid
Date:November 28th, 2006 01:39 am (UTC)
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Evidently, this is a new tradition; I sure don't remember it from my undergrad (or even grad) days at OSU. The rowdiest we got in undergrad was to have a series of "Fire Earl Bruce" parties and go bar-hopping on South Campus. Bruce is long gone (although he coaches the Destroyers now, doesn't he?) and you know what happened to South Campus. *heavy sigh* OSU has changed so much since I was a student... I don't even feel welcome there anymore.

But Mirror Lake still looks pretty much the same. *sigh* I remember stringing up my hammock in the trees just above the grotto and studying while a friend played the bells in Orton Tower at 5 every afternoon. While I don't miss Calculus, I sure do miss Mirror Lake and Orton Tower.
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:November 28th, 2006 01:55 pm (UTC)
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It's been going on for a while, I understand. this article can cite it back to at least 1985, when a kid dove in (they say "fell in", but I don't believe that, not really) and broke her neck.

I think Bruce used to coach the Destoryers. I think now Speilman does. I forget. . . It's Arena Football, so the whole thing is a bit fuzzy in my mind.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:November 28th, 2006 03:32 am (UTC)
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Great pic of Misty, nice composition.

/that is all...
[User Picture]
From:tesinth
Date:November 28th, 2006 03:33 am (UTC)
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d'oh, that be me
From:ceolnamara
Date:November 28th, 2006 03:33 am (UTC)
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That last photo is lovely.

The Mirror Lake Jump Tradition has horrified me since I knew about it. The quantity of disgusting things that end up in that lake and the amount of people who end up ill the week after was quite a deterrent.

The damage to the landscape is not something I considered, because the first was enough for me.

I get the 'team spirit' aspect, and I think it is important ... I just wish there was a less disgusting way to inspire cohesiveness.

An amusing tidbit ... I ended up working the Baker desk two years in a row on Mirror Lake Night because I didn't keep track of the local pop culture. The first year encompassed my worst ever night at work, even worse than the night in Jones when there was a fire 15 minutes before I was due to be off (0600). That was the first and only night I ever truly lost my temper on the job.
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:November 28th, 2006 01:49 pm (UTC)
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*nods* You don't strike me as someone who would jump in. But you do strike me as someone potentially horrified at the fact that people would :)

But yeah, while it was mostly the "cold, wet" factor that kept me out, I admit that I can't help but think about what people might be catching from each other and the already existing decomposition at the bottom of that lake.
[User Picture]
From:healing_coyote
Date:November 28th, 2006 05:06 am (UTC)
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Once upon a time, there was even an alligator.

That I had to help fish out...along with the idiots at the OSU-PD. lol
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:November 28th, 2006 01:47 pm (UTC)
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*grins*

I'll bet his scaly self had never been handled by anyone quite so hot. :)
[User Picture]
From:kateryndraper
Date:November 28th, 2006 08:13 pm (UTC)
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So that was real, and not an urban myth? Wow.

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