McMurdo Evening.

Today there's a haloed sun and pearlescent clouds. About +16F, slightly breezy. The sky is deep blue, the way it looks from an airplane back north. On days like this, the sun turns the ice golden. The mountains are deep purple in silhouette.

People go walking. I see four red coats atop Ob Hill, and one out next to Vince's Cross.

Inside the Coffee House a group of Kiwi's from Scott Base sit and sip Shiraz with the Yankees. In the small theater next to the coatroom a group of people sit and watch a DVD about Antarctica. The narrator describes icebergs and penguins, summoning depth and drama. When the documentary ends the viewers get up, put on their coats, and go outside to see what they were watching on the screen.

It's birthday bingo night at Gallager's. The game area has been cleared and filled with folding chairs. Sixty people mark their cards with pencils and sharpies the way they do in the church hall back in Bozeman. In the bar area a group cuts a birthday cake.

I was thinking to walk to the library to check out a book, but everytime I go outside I want to walk back to Arrival Heights where she took me two years ago. All my gear is in my room, and my roommate is sleeping. Don't want to wake him suiting up for a short hike, and my fleece and tennis shoes won't offer enough protection once I cross out of the wind shadow of the volcanic mountains. So I'm here writing and thinking. Listening to Yes on my iPod and wondering what I'm going to do for a job when I get back to the real world.

In the real world things move fast. Hurricanes have changed entire cities. Floods move rivers. The ocean swallows barrier islands. The earth seems to be mutating in less than our lifetime.

It's static here. Everything that could be blown away disappeared eons ago. The landscape can stay this way till squid evolve wings, but we are going to change a lot faster.

That's why it's not a good idea for me to go up Arrival Heights tonight. It would feel sharp and hollow, like an empty hypodermic right in the chest. Every place I walk will look the same as it did last time I was there, and I'll remember how new and fantastic it felt. How close I was to the land and people I was with.

Now it's different. I can't remember how I made those friends.

Twelve-hundred people on station, and 70% of them are first timers. Most of my friends haven't come back, and next year, neither will I. I have no science here. The support I do has been transferred to a new cadre while life has gone on.

There's a trip I'm saving to Hut Point. When I can do it without feeling suffocated, I'll go out to Scott's hut where I met my first Herbie. That's where I first yelled into the wind as loud as I could. Where I realized fate and luck and intention were all the same thing. Where I huddled under the eaves and wondered what force of nature brought me there. Where I realized I must have waited all my life for this day, every day.

Life hurts like hell. But it's pretty wonderful.

Nine days to pole. The planes are flying.
McMurdo Station -- October 26, 2005