Between the Waters


By: EarlB, 1:00 AM GMT on May 28, 2007

Our minds are flexible, malleable. Once introduced to new experiences,
it is quite amazing how easily we adapt, we are survivors, and adaptation
is the key to survival.

Aside from water, air and nourishment, most of what we "need" at any given
time could be taken from us, and we'd adjust. When I arrived in Greenland
I adjusted very quickly to temperatures 50 degrees colder than when I boarded
the airplane 7 hours earlier (of course I was prepared for this particular change
that I knew was coming!). I got used to 24 hour daylight, to a different work
schedule than at home. I got used to dry air, and to a muted sense of smell because
of the air's dryness, and to the smaller palette of color stimuli. The adaptations
came quickly. After so many visits it gets easier. Members of our group who had never
experienced the arctic, besides being in 48-hour-awe of the utter magnificence of
the vastness of the space, soon lapsed into a mantra of "can't sleep"s and "nosebleeds".
But even those complaints faded as all adapted.

Equal in disruption is the return. The shocking beauty of the simplicity of the black
and white scenery became the norm. The aromas that all vaguely remind me of a
fresh ream of paper in their complexity, absolutely clean and dry, are what is expected.
Stepping from the airplane in Dover, Delaware, in late May is indescribable. The humid air is
host to millions of perfumes, each more heady than the other: mown grass, dry grass,
french fries, marsh, after shave, vinyl "leather", hot rubber. The experience is the
definition of "swoon". It is more than you expected, more than you can process.

And then there is color. And then there is GREEN.... Welcome home.

Updated: 1:05 AM GMT on May 28, 2007


Black and White

By: EarlB, 1:32 AM GMT on May 16, 2007

I have been travelling the last twelve days. Since 1991, work has taken
me north of the arctic circle, to Greenland mostly, at least once a year.
This trip reset my winter "clock", I was just getting used to 70-80 degree
temperatures, thinking about tomato plants and gardens and planning my return
(as if I have any control over that) so that the Mother's Day ritual could be
observed. After six hours of flying, I stepped off of the plane into 20 degree
temperatures with 20 mph wind and light snow (needless to say, blowing snow).

This was a shorter than usual mission (my employer, NASA, loves "missions"!),
four weeks' duration is more the norm, so I had just barely enough time to relax
into the daily routine of work in the field and to brush off the daily routine of
work at in the office. There is something about Greenland that helps you reset.
It is something about the silence, something about the people, and the quietly
spoken language. There is definitely something about the weather. The weather is
black or white, either life-threatening or benign, and even the benign moments of
weather carry an air of instant changeability about them.

Literally, too, Greenland is black and white, all of the varied rock colors always
seem to add up to black, especially when compared to the white of the snow and ice.
Of course this isn't true, there are the beautiful white marbles of Uummannaq, the
delicate pink granites southwest of Kangerlussuaq, but against the white, white,
white of snow and ice... all is black.

And that is the lure, the dichotomy of this beautiful land represents night and day,
a beginning and an end, death and life, all wrapped up in black and white.

Updated: 1:55 AM GMT on May 16, 2007


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