Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A timely light...

Hey there,

I am writing a bit early this week to say: finally, I have a new page of photos on the homepage - showing you all the crazy goings-on of the past few weeks. Aurora photos still coming, you'll bear with me, hope you like them. See my previous post for explanations of the indoor race and band.

Late last week was an unusual one for me. On Thursday 12th of May was the anniversary of the death of a very close friend of mine, Rodney Marks, who died down here at South Pole Station in 2000. He was 32. Rodney was the person who truly instilled in me a passion for Antarctica and compelled me to think I could actually get down here myself. We crossed paths here in the summer of 2000, me on my first summer, he here to start his second winter, of which he only saw five months. In the days, months and years since that date there were many questions I had asked myself. When they buried him out here in the ice, what was the sky like, how dark was it, how did his friends here feel? It felt so surreal to be so far away when it occurred. So i knew that to be down here on the fifth anniversary of his death would be a profound moment. There were five of us here on base who had known Rodney, and our station manager, Bill, was here in 2000 when he died. We have a memorial Aussie flag that flies year-round for Rodney, and we walked out to pay our respects. The weather had been foul for a week, and I expected the wind to blast me as we stepped outside. It was brighter than usual though, the clouds clearing, though the wind was bitter. I heard our steps crunch over the snow, the only other sound, and we reached the snapping, already tattered flag. We chatted about him a bit, then finally fell silent. It was a strange moment for me. Painful, five-year old questions were finally answered. So it was this dark. His friends felt like this. It sounded this way. In my email inbox, the day after Rodney died, was an email from him with a beautiful aurora photo that he had taken only a day before he died. I almost let despair take hold and felt the darkness and cold close around me as I stood there and remembered that. Then I saw my shadow appear on the snow, spearing the silhouette of his flag. I turned, into the icy wind and looked up. Through frozen tears on my face, I smiled. The clouds had cleared, and a slowly arcing, pale green aurora lit my world. So this was what the sky looked like.

more later in the week,
love to you all
Jess

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