"Just give me what I want,
And nobody gets hurt.
I'm at a place called Vertigo."
Suspended animation. The rest of my life is. Nothing changes here. It's just as sharp as ever. It's just as high and low. It's just as dry and cold and odor free. It's just as crossed-legged on the floor, meditating yogi eyes closed almost love drunk.
It's still upside down. It's still hyper-cold nasty butt freezing dangerous. It's still goddamned godfree godless nothing but human us in outer civilized space. The fuckingly glorious end of the world where there are no distractions but each of us burning. Meat candle 97 degrees, you are a tube within a tube blasting straight on to death.
In the end, we all turn cold. In the end, we become static. We love Antarctica because it's the Casteneda death following over our left shoulder, right in our faces, dancing life along with us, two hundred-mile per hour rocket sled into a solid ice wall.
I love this terror. I love this cold that explodes my cells frozen ice shard inside out. I love these people. Me here.
You know it's going to be good when the air guard starts suiting up in their ECWs. Five hours twenty in a C-141. Crammed in. Done it before but while it's happening, wonder why. Why be subject to the pain. When the airmen start suiting up, it means you're not going to boomerang. You will land.
"The older I get the less I can sit in one place," says the big Texan, fidgeting and making everyone in the thirty-person clump of humanity shuffle whether they want to or not. He's a rigger. Working with the Japanese on BESS. This is a balloon-borne experiment going into the high-stratosphere to see if they can capture a single anti-helium nucleus. Never been done. They want to be first. Putting up a magnet the size of a building to catch something the size of a forgotten dream.
Stan was up in a helo with Jean Bertrand, the guy who did the big coffee table book The Earth from Above. He just did Antarctica, with a squadron of big-format cameras and a helicopter hovering over the most gorgeous unattainable places on the planet. He may as well have been photographing the surface of Titan.
Came down. Burned three hours of helo time, flew home. Stan beside him took pictures out the "B" side of the helo, the side away from the great light. Her pictures make my heart flutter. What was it Edwin Aldrin said about the moon? "Magnificent Desolation"
Just another day on Titan.
I would like to write you everything. Hypo wrap is what you do to freezing people. Never refreeze a thawed frostbitten body part. When you're cold, eat peanut butter. When you're cold, pee more. When you're cold, move more. Feed 'um and beat 'um, is what you do to your freezing friends.
PUSH stands for "Put up or shut up," which is the name of the survival school refresher. They don't make you do that anymore. They'd drop you on the ice with a survival bag, and you had an hour to be sitting in your tent with your camp stove lit and water on the boil. That's how you passed that thing. Now you just show up and watch videos. Lite the camp stove in the MEC building where it's not cold. Set up the tents. Rig the HF radio and call Pole. Then you're free to go to dinner. No putting out or shutting down.
I want to tell you these little things you forget. How when you meet your ice friends they hug you and act really happy to see you. Made it again. Antarctica is not a place you get to. You don't come down here. You "make it" here. It is a summit to be gained. It's hard won ground. It's nothing and something, all things ice people want out of somewhere. Some people would come here and clear their throats, wondering what the fuss was about. Some cold air. Some blue ice.
That's the whole missing point. It's not the geography, numb nuts. When the tree falls in the forest alone, there's nobody to give a shit. There are just physical effects--God building his part of your world.
It's collaboration. It's the "you" of it that makes it what it is. Sound has no meaning without God having created an ear. Light is nothing without the eye poking up from the surface of the primordial soup. The cold doesn't exist without there is a body to keep it out.
I got all these things I'm learning.
The soul is nothing without that there is a mind to comprehend you.
There is no love without that there was a breakable heart splitting, a gasp to exhale, the definite maybe of whether.
I see you. And I still love you, very very much.
McMurdo Station, October 29th, 2004