Monday, June 25, 2018

One year ago today, I was in Greenland and ...

Ilulissat Icefjord, 2017

... fourteen months after I started reading it, I finished Barry Lopez's Arctic Dreams this week. As it was published in 1986, the prevailing thought was wishing he would return to the far north and write a new book of what has happened since. So much has changed with the physical landscape but his meditations on history and our personal relationship with place have not. Here are four of my favorite passages with three images from the old iPhone.

From Barry Lopez's Arctic Dreams:

"... we bring our own worlds to bear in foreign landscapes in order to clarify them for ourselves. It is hard to imagine that we could do otherwise. The risk we take is of finding our final authority in the metaphors rather than the land. To inquire into the intricacies of a distant landscape, then is to provoke thoughts about one's own interior landscape, and the familiar landscapes of memory. The land urges us to come around to an understanding of ourselves."

Sermermiut, UNESCO World Heritage Site, 2017

"No culture has yet solved the dilemma each has faced with the growth of a conscious mind; how to live a moral and compassionate existence when one is fully aware of the blood, the horror inherent in life, when one finds darkness not only in one's own culture but within oneself. If there is a stage at which an individual life becomes truly adult, it must be when one grasps the irony in its unfolding and accepts responsibility for a life lived in the midst of such paradox. One must live in the middle of contradiction because if all contradictions were eliminated at once life would collapse. There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of leaning into the light."

East Greenland, Flight from Nuuk to Reykjavik, Iceland

"The edges of any landscape - horizons, the lip of a valley, the bend of a river around a canyon wall - quicken an observer's expectations. That attraction to borders, to the earth's twilit places, is part of the shape of human curiosity."

"It is in the land, I once thought, that one searches out and eventually finds what is beautiful. And an edge of this deep and rarified beauty is the acceptance of a complex paradox and the forgiveness of others. It means you will not die alone."

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