Sunday, September 9, 2012


Summer splendor, San Juan mountains, Colorado

August 8.  My first morning back in the US.  COLORADO!!  I wake at daybreak- courtesy of jetlag- to the lavish splendor of this temperate latitude, in awe.  The tangle of oak and elder outside the bedroom window and the delicious fragrance of greenery after rain is puzzling at first, a little shocking to my senses.  I’ve become too accustomed to Greenland’s stark horizon of rock and ice, and the pungence of rank seal blubber and sea.  A hummingbird hovers outside my screened window, vibrant amidst vining purple clematis.  Like dormant lichen gathering moisture after drought, I soak it up.  I'm so content. 

I left the Arctic in a dual state of inspiration and overwhelm.  Here at home, I continue to be overwhelmed by the abundance that exists on so many levels: the lushness of the mountain landscape, the ubiquitous excess of food and amenities, the prevalence of conversation, chatter and gratuitous human interaction.

Dusk becoming darkness at my wintering site in remote northern New Mexico.
And ohhh… the NIGHT.  I stepped off the airplane onto the tarmac late last evening, smiling into the velvety darkness.  Shrouded by a blanket of stars overhead, I’d forgotten how the night calms me, enveloping and protecting me like the warm embrace of an old friend.  Ahh, darkness- after 40 days of light.

Young friends show me the way, La Plata River Canyon.
 I feel like a toddler, regarding the world with a child’s sense of wonder and innate curiosity.  I’m enthralled by all the succulent details of the everyday, losing myself in the minutiae of a flower petal or a swirl of subtle color on wet asphalt.  Sometimes it takes lack and loss to find one’s way again.  

Claret Cup cactus blooms in Colorado

August 9.  I walked into the grocery store today and had a meltdown.  (You mean I can have whatever I want?? But there are so many choices!) Avocados, eggplant, tofu, chick peas, and tamari-roasted almonds.  Pears and spinach, fig cookies and peaches.  Corn tortillas, coconut, arugula, jicama.  I’m skinny since Greenland.  I can’t possibly buy or eat all this.  I consume visually, with my eyes, my hands pausing over tidy mounds of plums from California, grape tomatoes from Mexico.  Squeeze.  To have so much- is this bounty or gluttony?

I am giddy with the effortlessness of communication, and from being in a place where people know and care for me.  It’s not just the commonality of a shared language, it’s also the sub-culture of familiarity.  Both friends and strangers regard one another, often, with a fluency and ease that I find heartening.  I can talk to people here.  I can connect.

Kayaking, self-portrait
It’s hard to describe the sense of quiet exuberance that possesses me at the moment.  I understand that it's the result of accumulated longing amassed beneath and beyond my Arctic travels, magnified under the pressure of ten months away.  Something in me releases now, and I breathe a long exhale after waiting, enduring, thrashing over countless obstacles.  Fulfillment after yearning.  Relief

My time in Greenland, though in many ways a refuge, was as austere as the rock and ice that surrounded me there.  Returning to a landscape of green and a profusion of growing things echoes the renewed bounty of my internal landscape. 

Apache Plume, cyanotype photogram

The downside- if there is one- is that I’ve returned after many months of quiet introspection to the insistent din of contemporary life.  All the solo time spent in the studio- and trawling the backwaters of my mind- will make wending my way back to a busier world more daunting.  I wonder if I’ve unlearned the skills required to join the ranks of muliti-taskers armed with iPhones, earbuds, and daily planners brimming with urgency.  But this is just fear shadowing me like a cloud pausing overhead.  I’ve never really been a part of that lifestyle and my unfitness for it is likely more a gift than I will ever know. 

Postscript- August 31.  I’ve been back three weeks now and my sense of wonder and delight in the world remains.  Eventually the bustle will claim me again, but for now everything still sparkles, as light-filled and luminous as the ice of a northern glacier.

Icebergs near Melville Bay, NW Greenland


  1. I hope (and I suspect I speak for your numerous other readers who do not comment or cannot muddle their way through Blogger's set-up) that your homecoming is just the beginning of the next part of your journey that you will continue to share. As I have said before, your prose is exquisite - "as light-filled and luminous as the ice of a northern glacier." You are blessed with so many gifts and passions and writing is among them. Welcome home!

  2. You are a brilliant writer. A lovely read to put my restless mind at ease and peace before I endure another night shift under lights and hospital noises. Thank you! I look forward to meeting you.