Wednesday, January 14, 2009

-3 Tonight

which should really keep me in the right frame of mind (and a thick sweater) as I continue reading Barry Lopez's Arctic Dreams. It dawns on me now that far above the tree line, the tundra of the Artic Circle is the inversion of my beloved desert, the frigid version of vast, vacant and severely inhospitable terrain. Would you rather fend off heatstroke or frostbite? Rattle snakes or polar bears? Thirst or canyons of ice? Intense sunlight or no sunlight?

Lopez's vivid descriptions of the Arctic expanse with its "lamellation of snow," and its "irenic northern summers," is giving my avocabulary a workout as well as providing instruction in biology, ecology, history, anthropology, geography and the persuasive reminder that, "the world is oddly hinged."

Lopez questions what, today, provides us a sense of wealth:
"Is it to retain a capacity for awe and astonishment in our lives, to continue to hunger after what is genuine and worthy? Is it to live at moral peace with the universe?
It is impossible to know, clearly, the answer to this question; but by coming to know a place where the common elements of life are understood differently one has the advantage of an altered perspective. With that shift, it is possible to imagine afresh the way to a lasting security of the soul and heart, and toward an accommodation in the flow of time we call history, ours and the world's."

When even a few days of temperatures so low hitting zero seems luxurious, when fierce winds threaten to rattle the shingles from the roof and we are reminded of how small and vulnerable we really are, when we're forced to bundle up against the common elements of life, the behavior of which cannot be taken for granted, fresh perspective can blow in alongside blinding lamellations of snow.


Karen Miedrich-Luo said...

I just left Facebook and came here, and honestly, I feel like I've left a big, loud new year's eve party and walked into a quiet library with overstuffed chairs, a crackling fire, and coffee (Remember The Rose Cottage in Nova Scotia?)

And here's a thought... a few degrees hotter will kill you a lot quicker than a few degrees colder. And as much as I appreciate the desert (in short visits) I prefer things verdant.


allison said...

I don't think there's anything verdant in the Arctic!