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.


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