25 February 2010


White.  All white.  The mountains peak like crests of whipped cream sinking into a smooth pool of black coffee, buried to their necks in snow.  Our wingtips caught the sun over Spitsbergen, but when we sank to meet the clouds they became ghosts again, white and grey, and I remembered our place not 800 miles from the North Pole.  Blue, white, grey - the polar winter in Kiruna bounded back to me, and I even thought I glimpsed a host of polar stratospheric clouds to the northeast.  Clouds below, clouds above.  The clouds finally won.

No more whipped cream mountains. The peaks that would soon become giants slipped into the stratocumulus like acolytes robing themselves humbly before morning mass.  Shortly after, the clouds took us, too.  The plane started to shake and when we could finally see again, the summits stared sternly at our jostling craft, unmoving, majestic, and monotone.   The pilot turned the lights out inside and everything grew instantly brighter.  The jostling stopped.  Outside our windows loomed the ice plateaus of Templetfjorden and below us white shards of sea ice on black ripples. The sky still furrowed in streaks of grey, the runway was the brightest strip of ground.  The island above us, beside us, soon to be beneath us, entirely and unmistakably white.

17 February 2010

on Time, with Irene

Tall Pines in Georgia stands for more than trunks and needles, resin and fire-signalled seeds.  It is a song.  And a song can be with you anywhere without the weight of a pack slung around in turbulent flights.  Songs pass the time without pages or folded corners, and bus stops reverberate splendidly in dry winter air.  Crisp, clean, clear.

One morning while waiting I envisioned a man saddle a horse and cross the Blue Mountains through tall, dark pines filled with mockingbird mimicry  - all the way to the Allegheny, and all for love.  The same day showed me Sweet William and Lady Margaret flowering beside a bench in musical ignorance, oblivious to seasons, to sunlight. It was winter in the air, on paper and peoples' faces, but nevertheless, Tall Pines in Georgia clung to their needles white-knuckled and didn't mind being the only ones in green.  They grow on.

And the song.  The song stays in my head like stars in the Arctic darkness, hiding above clouds that pass by below but there all the same, all the time, light years away, and fills me with warmth.  The clouds today are lithe, stretching thinly over the Barents like a furrowed field of Mama's white hair. Sometimes the earth needs a gentle covering; sometimes the stars shine too sharply.  The ocean needs its islands, as much as it abuses them.  And empty bus stops call out for songs from travelers' mouths, even if only in passing.

Irene on Sommer√łya, Troms, Norway
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