Older and Rubble Free

April 3, 2009 8:53pm

The sounds of heavy breathing, of skis scratching the ice below our feet,
and the occasional whistle of the wind on our face are the faithful
companions of our solitary sojourn. From morning until evening, hardly
a word is exchanged. When I lead, I will occasionally check for Keith’s
shadow near my feet, as the sun is mostly behind us, and low on the
horizon. I will stop when the words ”fuel!” or ”drink!” are shouted
behind me. When Keith leads, my eyes are primarily focused on the
tracks directly in front of me, and I lose myself in introspective
contemplation, and spiritual meditation. I will recite for hours on end
the Guru Rimpoche mantra and watch how my focus sways this way or that.
When the time comes, I too will shout for a food or drink stop. We
hurry through those, catch our breath and set off quickly again before
the sweat on our bodies turn to ice on our skin. As each day rolls into
the next, there are no signs of life to break the quiet sanctitude of
our journey. Not a bird; not a bug; no plane high above in the sky. The
feeling of solitude in this white stillness could, for some, scream
louder than despair. But mostly I immerse myself in complete communion
with the ice, and feel at one with it–one in thirty million species
inhabiting this Earth; no more, no less. And I get lost in the unique
privilege of finding myself here, nourishing my soul with the pure and
raw power of Nature.
But today we did see signs of life! In close
proximity were one set of fox tracks (what would a fox choose to do at
this latitude where there is no food for hundred of square miles?
Certainly an eccentric); and soon thereafter a set of bear tracks–a
mother and two cubs. (Also probably confused, unless of course she was
looking for us!) Today being my birthday, and with plenty of thinking
time on my hands, I got lost in examining the nature of choices. And
got to think of the men and women who chose to live temporarily in
Eureka. The last bastion of civility before heading for the ice, Eureka
is a station battered by the merciless lashings of the Great North. The
vehicles that make it there know that they have reached the end of the
line, and are resolved to finish here without ceremony.The men who
drive them have stern faces shaped by their pioneering spirit. As with
the frontier towns of the past, people here are lured by opportunity.
But as the lines on their faces deepen, they all seem to soften
internally, moved by the power of this harsh desert and surprised by
the answers that come to them from questions they had not sought to
ask. Eventually, it would seem, everyone is forced to ponder the same
question. “Who am I, and why am I here?” In the white, stark vastness of
the Great North, answers come easier because there aren’t as many
places to hide.

We traveled 10.3 nautical miles today, in 9 hours.
Some nice big open pans but also some clumps of rubble– one the size
of a three story house!–which slowed us down. Many freshly frozen
leads to cross and much warmer temps at around -27 F degrees. That is a
15 degrees increase from a few days ago: today, we were sweating–no
Our current stats are N86°05.316 and W76°37.365. Thank you for
the many birthday well wishers. It means a lot to hear this kind of
support out here. Keith brought some Irish whiskey for the occasion.
This one’s for you!

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