Today I was riding in the car with my youngest daughter and she mentioned that when she looked at the person in the car next to us, that driver looked back at her.
It started a discussion of the -- "you always know when you're being watched" -- phenomenon, which most of us believe is true in one form or another. Stare at someone through your car window. They look back.
It's possible you have to be in a car to make it work. Maybe while you're in a car you have nothing much else to do but look out the windows, so when you happen to see someone staring with your peripheral vision, it's natural to turn and look. Or maybe there's kind of a sixth-sense connection between people.
The eyes are, after all, windows to the soul.
Surrey down, to stoned soul picnic.
"Why do you think that happens?" I asked her.
"I don't know, but it always works."
Kids don't always know when to be critical of seemingly supernatural phenomena, but fearing an invaluable lesson was not warranted, I agreed.
When I woke up this morning, I was not going to the South Pole.
Suppose I was a poem writer: I'd write you one. It would sound like this and you'd complain it wasn't poetry. It isn't any good. The judges would smile and push it aside. Next.
Every day it's different. Real poems don't change between readings. Zombified Shelly doesn't come back and modify Ozymandius every few days. And he wrote things everyone could understand. In the end mine doesn't seem to mean anything but everything to me. Not poetry.
Will you read me when I'm gone, anyway? Will I know?
This is me
Having committed to a scary thing
I'm missing things.
Roger that. 10-4, devotees.
I'm having a historical breakdown. Is there an archaeologist in the house?
These came to me. I still possess them. You might not have known it.
An orgasm is a prayer that the world come to an immediate termination, an acknowledgement that death is all roses once you've clawed your way upstream to spawn. That life means nothing without love and love wasn't anything you thought you expected. When that blast of supercooled polar air hits the lungs the body revolts as if drowning. Love is lost. The mind struggles for clarity against the need to scream. When you are dying you love nothing, but everyone, everywhen.
Panic kills. Being killed is not what I think you want so I will not be killed by my panic. If I am killed it's because something else happened. The plane crashed or I forgot my balaclava or hypoxia rotted my cortex. Or I fell. Or the plane home never arrived and I spent nine months in polar darkness, getting a wish I never really wanted, should have never said. Please don't come. Last plane home's gotta have me on it or I'm iceboy, forever.
Do I think about that?
I will not be slept-with by ice women. I will move into the bleak house on Mercy Street. At the end there is an inspiring wave of illogical despair, and I know the foam of its curl. Last time I was at the convergence of longitude I tried to read to fight it. I tried to fight to read it but it took me anyway. There was respite in hard climbs out of the Dome in the minus fifty-five, the physical exertion made me concentrate on the pain and not the minus eighty wind chill, at Pole minus is understood so you say temperature without it -- in Scott's day it was "degrees of frost"; I'm channelling Scott when he reached that irrelevant goal and realized it as such, his life now expended in the pursuit of a prize rendered trivial for which he will be forever lionized in failure, death so sealed: please take care of our people. For God's sake.
To this awful place I commend my spirit. It would have me. I am haunted. I am possessed by a demon for which a religion has not been invented to develop an exorcism ritual. Call me a Lama, I'm having a crisis of polar existentialism.
The Symmes hole is there, it can now be revealed. Under threat of death I was sworn not to tell of the vast gore to the earth's core. The fantastic winged creatures that traverse the glassy volcanic galleria that is the opening to the center of the earth.
You may never see me again. For God's sake, someone tip the caretaker.
Yet the thought has more than once passed my mind that were I to suffer the same finality as the fatal five it would be a better end than failing to outrun Boca alligators from the business end of an aluminum walker. Retire in Tampa, Grampa? No way, Fay Wray.
I don't know what I expected. Honestly. Was life supposed to last this long? Was love? Why do I threaten its end, so? Was I supposed to make it this long without a plane crash or blowing or a major arterial sinus? I've had these years to waste thinking I was in love and never understanding it. Maybe I wasn't, nor you. We worked it out. How did it end? What song did they play when the credits rolled?
If I die, at my funeral play the songs I loved. Supper's Ready. Then it will be over.
The South Pole is about as far away as you can get and be on earth, excluding the bottom of the Marianas Trench where there are angler fish and no breathable gasses.
After a lifetime of not going to the South Pole one day I was there.
This time, next week, I will be there again. Second time in three months.
How did this happen? Why does it want me? Must I die for my vanity?
Can you surrey? Can you picnic?
I will write to you. And I will write to you. In the Age of Aquarius I am farther away than God. My mind is full of tall pines and eagles. There is a raven's feather in my duffle bag, and an eagle's in my pocket. And you have to decide if you want the one that returns.
Despite the experts, I don't think it's an easy answer.
So far, my track record doesn't warrant comfort. It's risk.
I was never in this game to be an armchair quarterback. I've always wanted the ball. The actual pigskin. Take the actual hit. Always wanted to feel what it was like to be sacked by L.T., 1987, in a full-on run. Superbowl ring glitter in his eyes.
I am returning to the Pole. This warm life was all a dream. Now I awake and you're the light in Schroedinger's refrigerator that is neither on nor off.
A kiss goodbye, I love you. I really did.
At exactly 11:11AM on December 10th of 2002 I met a woman in the airport in New Zealand and spent a six-hour layover with her in Auckland. There we met the Prince and Princess of Japan.
After bowing to them a cadre of black-suited men politely stepped in front of us while others saw the royal couple to their limousine.
A woman from a newspaper came to us and asked us if we were honeymooning on the North Island. Were we newlyweds?
We said, "Yes," at the same time but we didn't know each other. We happened to have seen each other in one airport, and then another, and so said, "hi." Then the Prince was there and I couldn't remember her name. The newspaper photographer took our picture. The woman made up a name for me because she'd never asked mine, and the newspaper reporter wrote it down.
Before I left for my flight to the United States the woman told me that the world is full of miraculous things. I had just come from Antarctica, and I was the only Antarctican she'd ever met. I told her my getting there was a path lined in miracles. She said that miracles surround us but we fail to experience them. The way you experience miracles is to release all desire into the universe. Hold nothing. Want nothing. What you want, you ask for and release -- honestly not caring if it comes to you -- and it comes to you.
But you don't care when it does.
I wondered about meeting the Royal Japanese couple with her. How could that happen? Was that one of her miracles? Meeting a guy from Antarctica and bowing to the Princess of Japan at the same time? Who would believe it?
I've become your dream. I can feel it.
Your dream, too.
Where do you live?
I've never been there.
I've never been to Antarctica.
But I don't live there.
You say that because you don't know.
Oh, I know where my home is.
She smiled the way people do when they know you haven't caught on. We hugged when we said goodbye. She took her flight and I took mine. I never saw her again. I will make up a name for her. I will forever call her, Faith.
In this life you could have had any of ten thousand loves. In every city there is someone for you, who would love you forever. You've passed hundreds of them in grocery stores, shopping malls, city parks. You've exchanged glances across restaurants. You've seen each other through automobile windscreens.
You will meet tens of possible loves.
You need but one.
Today I ate a bowl of Caribou Crunch and thought of Denali. I touched a bald eagle's feather and remembered when I fed the raptors off the Alaskan shoreline. I held the mummified wing of a talking owl in my hands, one that appeared at a windowsill and promised a wish. She made a wish and found the owl dead the next day. Talking owls are like bees - one wish and they're dead.
She kept the owl for her forever. It was hidden in a frozen locker in the woods and she took me to it. Unwrapped it, layers of old cloth napkins. Embalmed by love's desire when she was a girl, it lay for years waiting to pass into my hands.
You're meant to have this.
Are you sure?
I don't know. I'm just doing it.
Now I have the wing. It's real.
All of these things are real.
On Saturday I leave for the South Pole again. I am scheduled to be on the last flight out of the Pole station, the risk being that if the last flight out is cancelled, I am there for nine months.
I must have wished for this challenge. I must have the gold ring in my hand. I still can't see it.
I don't feel lucky.
I'm (not) ready for anything.
I pray for Faith.
Maybe I will find my leatherman.