While we don’t imagine you’ve been sitting around waiting to hear from us, we feel it’s been much too long since we’ve said hello. The last time we checked in, it was the beginning of summer and we were preparing for a kayak trip to the interior of Glacier Bay, Alaska. We anticipated it would be an inspiring adventure, but its true impact had a profound effect, leaving us a bit speechless on the subject. This is one of the reasons you haven’t heard from us. We hope you’ll allow us to explain.
Most of us have seen pictures of Alaska. If not from friends or family who’ve been, then in magazines, television shows or movies. Before our trip, when we saw photos, we were struck by the enormous mountains, endless views of virgin evergreen forests, and the impossible shades of blue in the ice and waters. But we also thought, perhaps, the photos were enhanced with a trick of the lens or through software tweaks. But not only was it proven to us that every photo we’ve seen is true to Alaska’s beauty, but they’re actually capturing only a fraction of how breathtaking Alaska really is. Film clearly has limits to how much it can absorb, as it’s hemmed in by its frame and its ability to record just two dimensions.
Another thing we realized – as we paddled near glaciers that boomed like thunder as they calved, and tips of giant icebergs were dwarfed as they floated past mountains that climbed thousands of feet straight up from the water’s edge – is that we humans are tiny. Our party of 10 that paddled for hours to cross just one finger of the bay, and then huddled together in our little village of tents at night – made up no more than a speck on that enormous landscape. Not only were we surrounded by thousands of miles of nature and wildlife, our existence there was but a blip in time.
These thoughts culminated in a metaphor when we noticed a rock riding atop an iceberg as it drifted by. We thought about when and where its journey started. The stone likely formed thousands of years ago, as it was scraped from the side of the mountain. Cradled inside the ice, the glacier flowed between the ridges of the surrounding mountains, until eventually, it reached the edge of the massive glacier and calved into the bay, carrying this rock with it.
Eventually, the solar gain of that dark rock melted away the ice in the iceberg – just enough for us to spot it as it floated by our kayaks. It’s likely we are the only human beings who would ever see it. Considering its journey, it really put into perspective our notion of how important we think we are, and how ultimately we know very little about the space we inhabit. While we’ve experienced this sensation before, this time it was overwhelming. And it was humbling in the best possible way. It was enormously freeing to come to this realization, awakening in us a better understanding of our role in our little corner of the world.
So this is why you haven’t heard from us in awhile. Not only have we been given perspective on the ways we fill our time and space, but it’s difficult for us to find the words to describe such a profound experience. Maybe it’s best we express ourselves through our art.
Caption: Our niece, an intrepid guide, takes in the view of our first glacier sighting
Caption: Rocks embedded in glacier ice
Caption: Kayaking towards Johns Hopkins glacier, at the base of Mt. Abbie, elevation 8750 feet
Caption: While camping near Johns Hopkins Glacier, the sound of ice calving sounded like a continuous thunderstorm. While we were unable to see the icefall at this distance, the waves from the splash would wash ashore about 15 minutes later.