Monday, April 11, 2005

Time and Distance

Time and Distance

Hello there,

it has been a while since my last entry. Apologies. Much has happened and I have not been feeling equal to literary endeavours. But more of that later.

The world is many shades of grey today. It is now the kind of twilight you get only minutes before full dark, the sun's legacy only a pale band of light gold on one horizon, the sky opposite dotted with the first stars. However, as today, when a storm blows in, the stars and all light is blotted out and the grey, flat
world descends. With the deep, alternately soft and sharp sastrugi between the station and the dark sector, walking in these conditions is startlingly challenging. A stroll which once took 10 minutes in summer took me a full thirty today. There is no depth perception. The world is a dark grey, even the next flag
on the line just a darker patch of grey on a flat canvas. The ground is nonexistent.

To give you an idea of how random (and dangerous) the walk is, imagine walking blindfolded on a children's jumping castle in 20kt winds wearing a sumo wrestling suit. The next step may be a two foot drop, or kick into a sharp-edged sastrugi, or a three foot rise into a soft snow drift that brings you to your knees. This uneven and completely unguessable terrain leads to an altogether strange walking
style. One hand to my hood to hold it in place, slightly sideways against the wind coming from my right and to the front of me, and a big, high step to try and leap the sastrugi or predict the next drift and the combination renders me akin to an autistic drunkard wearing scuba diving flippers. It is simply fortunate
there are no witnesses to have hernias laughing.

I will soon put some new photos on the website, one of which is a result of some boredom on the part of me and a helpful friend last weekend. A few hours playing with bleaches and colours and my hair is now bright purple and orange. Quite startling, really, but it did brighten up my day. This weekend just passed was highlighted by the first winter round of Bingo in the galley. It would normally never enter my head to partake in such a thrilling game, however when at South Pole...It was a very entertaining evening, much raucousness and banter - mostly it wass impossible to hear our caller, George, but he battled through and yelled over the drunkards for the most part. Much fun.

Lastly, the reason for my hiatus in writing is some bad news from home (Adelaide, South Aus) that I received last Sunday. My cousin's grandmother, and a surrogate grandparent to me also in many ways, Renee Noonan, passed away peacefully in her bed on Saturday April 2. It is a tribute to her grace and class that she chose the same day as the Pope to part this world, though would likely rue her timing that someone was sped past her in the V.I.P. line to get in the Pearly Gates. It was very hard news to hear, especially as at such times the impassable distance to my loved ones is felt so keenly, and I could feel the vast, cold winds of two continents stretch out between me and those who I just wished to crush in hugs.

Renee is held so highly in my love and regard that I will not run away with words overly. Her worldly intelligence, great love of travel and of her homeland of France was instilled in many of her grandchildren and others. Sitting with her only last November as we sifted through my photographs of my recent trip to
France is now a precious memory to add to many others, since the first clear ones of me sitting on her kitchen floor as a toddler, rummaging delightedly through the most exciting pots and pans cupboards I had ever discovered. To my cousins, Sara, Becky, Sam, Matt and Josh, who I know feel her loss most deeply, I send my love and thoughts. Also to the rest of the family, to whom Renee's presence was a deep and joyous constant in our lives, I am thinking of all of you, and missing you very much.

As for me, well, I'm a tough little bean, and will muddle through as usual. It will simply mean that the greeting of friends and family at the end of this journey will be that much more precious, and that is never a bad thing.

To all of you, take care and enjoy, because life is short!

much love
Jess

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