This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Alaina Hanchey, is from Facing Aridity by Diana Woodcock, released by Wayfarer Books in 2021.
Near the Arctic Circle
Day one, waiting to set sail, the mind fixed on krill, seals, Blue whales, and the thought of Omega 3 pills offered for sale at pharmacies and Amazon.com. Krill oil supplement a detriment to sea birds and mammals—to the critically endangered Blue. Foundation of the ocean’s food web, small, shrimp-like crustaceans in decline by eighty per cent, on the frontlines of climate change, melting sea ice finishing their habitat, ocean acidification impairing these key players in slowing global warming— carbon dioxide transported by them from surface to deep water. The mind weighed down by facts, then lifted this first day out, west coast of Spitsbergen, by a long, slender Fin whale—the captain killed the engine. We all kept still, silent, holding breaths and waiting five, fifteen minutes for each breaching— each tall blow twenty feet high. Day two, I would see my first Blue. But this first day out, it would be a Fin that stole my heart away. Eyes no longer glazed over by calendar and datebook, I would look upon one Fin and realize how seasons run. I would become this first day out devoted to Fins, recalling they were the ones to outrun whaling ships early commercial fishing days till steam- powered vessels and explosive harpoons caught up with them. Watching one Fin in that one of a hundred places where mystery’s source can still be sensed, I’d be brought to my knees, as Rilke promised, watching the ease of a Fin whale causing the sea to rise and swell— its compulsion to move through water, my conscience taken along for the ride— joy to rise out of me each time its sickle-shaped dorsal fin would surface, sun-dazzled, and I’d decide this Fin holds within its being all the answers, like a mandala, precisely designed, then swept away.
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