Friday, January 29, 2010
When is it that whim turns to fancy? And at what precise point do dreams take flight and land in the cold, stark, and beautiful of surreal reality? Maybe it is after 23 hours of flight, a week in Ushuaian purgatory getting ready to wait, and a 7-10 biscuit-tossing voyage across the cusp of the Drake, crossing the Antarctic convergence to land in the place of dreams, South Georgia.
There are places on this blessed green and blue orb that have the ability to reach into the very core of one’s being, take hold of one's heart with an iron grip, and then caress one's very soul in the same manner in which the sun is apt to gently kiss one's face on a sun dappled day after a long cold winter.
Places that make you feel so alive that you inhale the crisp air as if it were your very first breath of life. And yet, at the same time, your last cherished breath as you give over to something greater than yourself. You are alive to the very marrow of your being and your soul dances with God on earth.
It is said that we all have a geographical home. A particular place on this earth with which you feel a connection with the land: a cottage by a lake, the coastal surf breaking on a rugged shoreline, a tropical paradise, your back yard when the autumn coloured leaves fall and blanket the ground, a garden as the smell of the soil being turned over fills your senses, the smell of grandma's soup, the sound of rain falling in a cedar forest, the crackle of a pine grove on a hot, dry day... Perhaps it is a place you frolicked and cavorted in your childhood. All of your senses awaken to confirm its place in your soul: the sights, sounds, smells of the flora and fauna, the way the wind ripples across this particular landscape, the upwelling of feelings… It is when you arrive at this place after being away, that one truly feels at home with all of heart-home’s inherent comfort and the easiness of its peace.
For me, I think this local is split between the Pacific Northwest and north and south of the 50th latitudes. The ancient mariner’s used to say that, “in the forties there is no law, in the fifties, there is no god”. I beg to differ. This is where I feel the closest to God and the magic of creation.
Where the majestic albatross both soars and slumbers on the wing amidst the erratic calm and fury of the southern sea, humpback whales pirouette with the grace of a ballerina in the weightlessness of azure seas, polar bears look through your soul and see you as simple sustenance in a shimmering yet monochromatic landscape, crotchety walrus flash you their toothsome smiles, and the spiraled ivory of a narwhal’s tusk emerges as an apparition in the milky, glacially silted, teal waters.
Where the trumpeting and acrid smells of a multitude of penguins, seals, and crashing surf welcome you to safe harbour. One moment the ocean’s surface is awash with brash ice and bergy bits and then it is replaced on the ebb and flood of the tide's movements by towering mountain sculptures of ice and grandeur that topple, explode, calve and constantly crackle and pop as centuries of trapped ancient air is released and melts into the sea, where the silence is so profound that you cannot tell if it comes from without or within oneself.
Here you feel you are a visitor that is tolerated but not entirely welcome and the terms of your stay are staked in your heart and wit and determination to embrace it all. Simply surviving means that you never overstay your welcome, exhibit any assumptions or arrogance, or lose your focus for too long. If you do relax into complacency, then the not so subtle slap upside one’s head of a katabatic wind careening down the slopes or the building seas and dumping surf, will soon snap you back to reality and encourage you back to the awareness of the basics such as seeking immediate shelter. It is the land where the works of Creation leave one spellbound in awe and swells one's heart till it wants to rupture with joy as teardrops stream down one's face unnoticed and unsolicited.
This is my soul's home. Where the opposites of the extremes intermingle on an hourly basis. Where beauty really does take one's breath away leaving one feeling winded and alive within the bounds and necessity of heightened awareness. This is the land that I cherish and this is my challenge to you, to cherish and protect yours.
May the albatross continue to hover over the waters infusing the spirits of those who have and those who have yet to take their first breath, with wonder.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
The land of Ushuaia has treated us well but it is time to fly the coop. We are hoping to set sail tomorrow pending the arrival of a ship's latch. The boat is fitted up and all of our systems are double checked and tested: satellite phones (huge thanks to Anne and Lo of Naturetrek!!!), computer uploads via sat phone, tracking device for Hayles, epirb confirmations, video formatting and downloading, yadda yadda yadda, etc.