Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Glaciers alive!

I'd seen glaciers from a distance before.

"Oh you've got to go and see the glacier up close, it's so stunning!" everyone had said.

Really? I mean honestly, aren't they just persistent swathes of snow? Which bit are you getting excited about exactly? Conversationally, I didn't get it. So when I was in Mt Cook a few weeks ago I thought I'd go up to a glacier. To see if I could get it.

The noises took me by surprise. It would talk, using a massive vocabulary for the short time I was there. The occasional groans during the nights, as you'd expect from any sleeping giant, were on the same bassy frequencies as thunder. As the sun warmed it in the morning it made the kind of noises you'd expect from any mottled blue brute getting out of bed. Hours of silence would be punctuated with scrapes, grinds, gushes of melt water, crashes, cracks, collapses, slips, rockfall. I could never see exactly where they came from of course - each noise was "from inside" and without warning, which only added to the prowess of the phenomenon. Its formidable aura prompted me to read my book on a well protected spot, but I kept it within arm's reach and occasionally patted it.

On the last sunset I did naked yoga on it, assuming crampons don't count as clothes. As I tried to connect my mind to it for the first time I immediately felt an enormous sense of pity. It was dying. As are we, but somehow because it's bigger and defenceless, it's much sadder. The longer I sat there, the more I realised that it's not just stunning, it's alive. This made me realise a lot about our misperceptions of the label "life". I think a lot of us are in the wrong paradigm, but that's another blog post.

I spent three days up there. I have just finished the descent and now I sit in a field in the valley watching a stupefying sunset over Mount Cook. There is not a cloud in the sky and Cook is shrouded in glaciers similar to mine, all melting. No one around me speaks. We all get it.

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