11 October 2010 – Trygghamna
I sleep perfectly, not waking to Janet coming in, and managing not to get up to pee. Janet’s alarm goes off at 7.15 but I’m already awake. The light is only faint. I luxuriate a little, not anxious to go outside. But the curiosity is there – when I finally dress myself on my bunk, raising myself in a backbend to get my pants on, I know the first thing I will do is go out, and see what I will see.
I step into the most magnificent scene: all around us are mountains, white mountains scored with fine black lines above a pale, flat sea. Whichever way I look they tower, covered in snow. They are so beautiful that I cry.
My energies move into my chest and it leans out into this bleak world; it is a void with this busy ship a tiny hub in the fjord. Trygghamna: ‘safe haven’. The cold edges of those mountains are burning cold, a crisp picture reflecting this place like a mirror at me. It is unreal, ethereal. I do not imagine anything here – it does not evoke at all. It simply welts its razor image across my gaze – and then around and around for 360 degrees. I do not see where we entered, I do not see that it is a long fjord – the Noorderlicht lies floating on a lake among white giants whose purpose is to be enormous.
We land in the Zodiac, on a lonely beach, and walk to the foot of Alkhornet. Already I carry a dream. The dream is this white snow, thick to the thigh sometimes, and glowing blue beneath the broken-open caves of our footfall. The dream is the sponginess of tundra, the breast-like mounds of hidden moss that squish gently, resist us and release us. The memory is the work of getting up each hill, and the cold dolomite like speckled cream, frosted with bright lichen. Out on the water lies the Noorderlicht, crisp as a toy.
This place shows me the emptiness of life, the impossibility of doing anything. One minute I’m fixed on absorbing it into my being, and in the next, I wonder: why be drawn here or anywhere? Where there are nothing but reindeer.
When I think about my work, I am stumped – utterly and completely stumped. How can anything that I am be relevant to this magnificent sterile pasture? And when I don’t think about my work, I am just entranced. Nothing more. There is nothing in the air, it is not like Europe where I ‘feel’ my affinity the moment I step out of the train station. Here, it is cold gas: I breathe, I look, and I can barely listen.
I breathe into my balaclava, I drop my snot into it. I am under a hundred layers and still the cold reaches extremities, caresses my cheeks. I wear my glasses not because I want to see – I am tired of them fogging up – but because they shield my eyes from the wind, from the snow dust that flies behind another’s footfall. Where the snow is absolutely white, there could be feet of it. Where it has brown grass poking up, I know it’s more shallow.
My focus is on my own feet, on not rolling my ankle or jagging my boot on a rock. The snow irons out surfaces, takes away the detail of the land. It erases. The whole landscape is erased. And this is the first theme: the idea of nothingness. Emptiness.