Land of Ice

Svalbard in winter. Frozen fjords, mountains of brightest white with only a few patches of granite freed by the whipping wind. The pastels of dusk and dawn of sweet deception as the temperatures sink when the sun hovers over the horizon. The ice is moving, breaking in sharp cracks and deep sighs, working and shifting in a jagged landscape and where the water is freed, it’s of a menacing blackness. The pristine snow is untouched by all but tracks of animals, swiftly made, swiftly covered. The clouds rolling in deny the vealed mountain-tops their innocence.

Walrus lay on thick ice so bright it hurts the eye against the cerulean backdrop of the Barents Sea. Bearded seals dry their fur in the whisper of sun at mid-day and eider ducks rush across the open water to create the only sounds with their splashing wings and the reindeer drudge through the snow on the headland. 

The little fox moves over the landscape like the tip of a clock’s hand, from East to West in a semi-circle mirroring the moon. As the days and nights lose their distinction, time is defined by the tides, the freeze, the melt. This elemental beauty shows our fragility in sharpest contrast under mountains that line up as characters from ancient tales, frightening gods of old, a chorus of shrieking fulmars circling their abode, gliding over the water, their wingtips slicing the surface, mocking our inability to fly from their human-like eyes while the guillemots scramble to flee from the ships bow, a bear but a speck in the distance. 

As we sail these Northern waters, predators to this habitat, hunting no more for fur but a need to be healed by the beauty and its honesty, we aren’t humbled as much as reduced to our mortal package of bones, our chance existence. Exposed and fragile, our voice carries farther, without the distractions of the world we corrupted, now that we seek healing by what we once ventured to destroy. The air is hard to breathe, thickened and painful in the lungs. Sea-mist descends, a thick brush wiping across air and water, mixing all into one matter, one living, breathing beast of which we are part, through which we sail. Our circulation slows, the waves flatten, the fog thins and the sun appears over a crystal clear landscape of a new day’s dawn.

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