12 October 2010 – Gravneset & Gullybreen, Magdalenefjorden
Perspective is utterly lost inside a fjord, the mountains rise up from an impossible water, a surface around which everything is painted. The ice crumbles along the beaches, transparent, cloudy or blue – and it is vivid blue, holding the memory of the glacier beyond, which pushes out of the dip between two peaks like a row of teeth, waiting to devour the bay.
But the bay absorbs the glacier, icy boulder by boulder. The sound of fragments lapping against the round stones along the shore, the sound of pieces busting off and creating long melodies as they bob into oblivion. A string of tracks of a fox is pressed into the pristine snow, just shy of the stones and kelp.
I sit at the limit of our guarded area and watch the yellow speck on the opposite shore, which could just as easily have appeared on our shore. It’s a big old, yellow bear. To one side of me, a hillock behind which the beach curves out of sight. I know a bear could come around that corner too, if it was not scared by the sound of 20 of us quietly working.
I want the horror of this desolation and beauty, to imagine this land without me in it, and what its power is, and then to transplant myself into that sense of awe. Instead, the reality of being eaten brings the zoom of my consciousness right into where I can touch it. The terror of romantic awe is supplanted by the anxiety of sitting on a beach in bear territory, clumsy from kilos of clothing, trying to write with frozen hands. There is so much going on, the beauty of the ice, its clinking in the water, the tripods and conversations and swathes of snow over smooth rock.
Janet is shooting flares. The crack resounds half a dozen times, deflected by granite mountains like featurelesss clock faces chiming a moment in time. A small cloud of smoke floats, following the sound. Mist begins to drop down, veiling the peaks without softening them. The air is so clear though that the mist, somehow, is as sharply defined as the ridges.
At the glacier: Gullbreen. Snow falling in grains. I sit beneath the glacier’s smooth, iced and re-iced rounded arms, literally a cliff of ice that I can press myself against. Inside the ice are wormlike curls, white lines and squiggles. It is a cave frozen solid, containg floating things.
Towards the middle of the glacier front are deep blue splits: curtains part to reveal an interior where absolutely nothing belongs. It is not the jagged blue in the centre that I’m drawn to though – it’s this rounded cliff of ice that I sit beside, inspect, lean against. Why should it not split, and tumble? When we walk back I see where water streams out from beneath a section of it that has collapsed from underneath. It takes a few more days of such places, such experiences, to begin to realise that everything here is a risk, however straightforward it appears.
Rebeca talks about the idealised ‘sublime moment’ as being when your self becomes identified with the landscape – or better, when the boundaries break down between you and the place… And I realise how layered I am, how overfed and bundled up, and that I need to break down that barrier – and that the barrier, in fact, has to be maintained. It is impossible for the self to identify with the landscape – because the separation is necessary to survival.