Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Viking Passage

Just some random images from The Netherlands, Scotland, Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland. The last two pics are from St. Johns, Newfoundland where I had a lively time downtown connecting with people hanging out on the streets.

Iceland and Greenland were the last big places on my bucket list and they were so amazing. Greenland was surreal as the two towns we visited felt so intimate and soulful - an interesting edginess borne from the hardened Inuit population dressed in modern Danish clothing. Iceland had the barren feel of the Scottish highlands mixed with an almost lunar landscape. I feel so lucky to have gotten to go to these places, this having been my second month long journey this year. I'm feeling oversaturated and spoiled with travel, which I had not thought could happen or was prepared for. I am so rusty at writing and it shows!

World travel was the thing I have always wanted the most and now that I've done a lot of it I'm not sure what to aim for next. 55 seems like an odd age to reinvent oneself but it looks like that is where I am at again. I don't have an Ice contract so I am looking at the options available: staying in my cabin (incredibly cheap rent) and looking for work around here, or moving to a city with more jobs and stuff to do. It is curious to me why I have not sold my cabin as this is what I thought was holding me back. I guess I crave a home base more than I realized. It is hard cycling down from a trip, and even though I was really happy to be done is also hard being back on this mountain and having to drive 100 miles a day to do yoga and/or go to the grocery store. But the hardest thing is trying to feel my way into something that could be as exciting as going to the Ice has been. Twelve years ago at this time I was getting ready for my first deployment, and that's all my life has been about ever since, even the four years I took off. I guess it will take a while to integrate this as something in my past - and it doesn't even feel like something in my past, but something in my bones that will be with me forever. I just don't want to miss it and pine for it like I did. I want to be able to move forward and find something to get excited about again, move forward with anticipation instead of resignation. My body wants to relax, wants to be semi-retired. My brain still thinks it is 19 and that I have to reinvent myself every year...finding that middle ground will be the challenge, especially for someone like me who loves extremes.

Sunday, May 29, 2016



Shanghai at Night






A month after I returned from the Ice I flew to Hong Kong and started a three week journey through China, Korea and Japan. I loved these countries much more than I thought I would - especially China. I had heard negative reports from my friends' travels there so I expected to be dazzled by Japan but not China. Now Tokyo was amazing as I got to spend 4 whole days there, but China affected my soul more deeply. Shanghai was so vibrant and shockingly wonderful I wonder why I had not known about this fabulous city. We walked around with our mouths gaping for two days in Shanghai, feeling intimate and connected despite the 27 million population. And this was one of the smaller cities on the trip. Beijing was like Hong Kong on steroids, and the scale of the apartment buildings was transcendent. Hong Kong was like Manhattan on steroids, and even though interesting enough, was the one place I don't feel I need to go back to. Every place else deserves a deeper look.

I don't know if I've travelled so much that I'm spoiled or that I hadn't quite rebuilt myself after the deflating experience at McMurdo, but I found myself out of sorts and addled on this trip quite a bit. I'm also thinking that living in the cabin in the mountains is making me more sensitive to the violence of in your face destinations and a shockingly fast pace of ingesting new cultures with little time to digest them before moving on to the next. But I could travel differently and take more time in each place, but at this point in my life I want to see more with less money, so I go on boats and pay a fraction of what it would cost on land. And I don't have to do it all on my own, which appealed to me when I was younger but not currently.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

On Penguins, Flat White and Fata Morgana (Not)

I'm so rusty at writing so I hope my dear reader(s) forgive me for the logorrhea that follows. As you all know I pined for 4 years to go back to the Ice & I got to go back. Now I am nesting in my darling chilly cabin on the mountain in Oregon. It happened so fast and I settled in here so immediately that I feel like this whole season passed in the blink of an eye. I mean I am sitting here in my bed with my laptop like I was never gone! Which is strange because the season was so complicated and intense in ways that I am not going to go into detail on this public blog, but there was so much gutting of my psyche and such surprising leveling of my pride that I could barely feel my badass self at all.

Photos can be so deceiving: look how much fun I am having; look at my amazing life; look how adventurous and mold-breaking I am for a 55 year old woman! Yes there are moments where I really felt the bliss of being in Antarctica all over again. But they were overshadowed by a twin stream of difficult situations that I had to contend with all season and put me through an emotional wringer. One of the situations I had to deal with and the the other I didn't have to deal with at all, I just must have really loved the feeling of torturing myself. How, I asked myself, after a zillion hours with therapists, healers, spiritual helpers, writing and meditating, could I end up feeling as lost and insecure as I did as an eight year old kid. How could I let myself be traumatized by the perceived rejection of just a handful of humans.  How, after 23.5 years in a program that teaches me not to rely on people as the source of my good feelings about myself, did I let someone's attention/lack of attention on me control my self worth? And most startling: despite the most physically and mentally demanding job I have had on station that I gave my all to and with very little free time, that I could be as self-absorbed as I was when I was unemployed and had so much free time that navel gazing was second nature. But I didn't have anything pressing on me off Ice. There I had to deal with personalities on top of me 9 hours a day. I don't know if I've changed or if I just had too high an expectation for what this continent could do for me, but man I sat through some keeningly sharp emotional times there. The good news is I behaved well through it. I sucked it up and plowed through and always had my day off to look forward to. I got through it. And it has made me curious about how I can grow myself into the person who does not fall apart over simple (perceived or real) rejection.

So there was the hard parts but there was also the part that I thrive on: the rigid structure of the work-camp lifestyle, the galley ritual, the wild dancing parties on Saturday nights. The holiday parties and two day weekends were so much fun that they almost made up for the difficult stuff. I came back looking younger and 15 pounds lighter and feel more content than I've felt in years. I had a goal and I achieved it. Yes there were searing moments (days) of a black hole feeling in my chest cavity that made it hard to breathe, but the happy times were really, really fun. Reconnecting with so many people I know from previous seasons and all that attention from men was like manna from heaven to me. Unfortunately, the one I chose to fixate on all season had me like a fish on a hook, flopping around never knowing when the green light was on or whether the gut-socked pain of the cold shoulder was what I was in for. Was every season like this and I just forgot? Was being so much older than my co-workers a factor? Questions to explore for sure. The most surprising thing to me was how raw and skinless I could feel down there. Usually I have a protective shell I can put on when needed but I couldn't find it this time. Maybe I haven't needed it for so long that it fell away. My coping skills seemed to work and are fairly healthy, and I was lucky enough to have a roommate situation where I basically lived alone. I had knitting and movies and reading as my solace.

I feel bad for those who want to read an Antarctic blog to hear about penguins and wildlife and stumbled upon this one - I think there are many out there! The one thing I know after 8 seasons is that whatever hidden aspects of myself that are a dull ache (or I'm not even aware of) stateside, those become dark side gremlins that demand full attention on Ice. I have to deal with them there. Antarctica has always been the big personality-defect revealer for me and this season was a doozy for exposing old and ineffective aspects of my character. I got to see where I am still a crumbling mess, but thankfully I am so much more capable of dealing with it now - and the crumbling mess is pinkie sized now instead of what used to feel like my whole being. Yes, I am spinning this all into a positive - I went, I suffered, I had joy, I survived, and I had me some fun. I didn't let the bad stuff drive me off station as I saw it do several of my friends.

There were many bright spots! I got to go to the South Pole for 5 days and it was really incredible. I had connections with people that were deeply satisfying. I got in the best physical shape of my life just from my job. I got so many loving cards and gifts from people stateside.

I must remember to be grateful for how fortunate I am. I get to carve out my own life, and no one ever said that going after something you really want does not come with a cartload of pain and heartache. I used to hate my weaknesses and vulnerabilities and tried to drown them with alcohol. Now I just get to see that they are not going away so I have to accept them and possibly even make friends with them. This is what going to the Ice does to me. I did no hiking! I went on no boondoggles! I only felt the searing intensity of my relationship with this continent.

Forward and onward through this mucky life.