Friday, August 24, 2012

Pray for Shackleton*

I labored through the cold, clutching my scarf closer to my neck.  Why I ever thought that snow would be flat is anyone's guess.  I am crawling in and around sharp hills and soft valleys of deep snow.  Cold. I stood outside the Castro Theatre the other day, line wrapped around the corner, and my friends bitched endlessly about how cold it was.  They don't know cold.  And I don't know endless.  Not yet.

The sun tinged everything blue and clean.  My eyes are either in a state of white blindness or immersed in oily darkness.  Either way, I can't see clearly.  As I labor along I wonder if I've ever been able to see at all.  What have my inadequate eyes beheld?  My eyes could never be a scientific instrument, precise and objective.  The damn things don't even work on a normal basis, take too long to focus.

My breath drifts before me in milky clouds.  The tip of my nose hurts.  And my quads are screaming.  None of this matters.

I am walking away from this place and I don't look back.  Not at my previous companions, not at the place where I came from.  I'm moving forward with my blinders on, reaching out with both arms for something not in this world.  Ahead of me the orange sun, which looks so warm and restful, sits on the horizon.  The sun is the pause, the nanosecond before the nuclear explosion.

At least I will be warm again even for a few moments.

The water, all frozen (ice)bergs, stretches out around me.  I feel the ice shift as the bergs move.  Winter is here so everything should be frozen solid and there should be no danger of falling into a crack and into the watery grave of the Weddell Sea, or rather watery grave for me.  It's not a grave for the creatures that live there.  I think about this for a while.  One person's grave is another creature's heaven and home.  Perspective?  Natural History?  I don't know.

The most important part of this post is not the next paragraph.  The important part is the end.

Sometimes the only way changes are going happen is to have your goddamn heart broken.  And sometimes, sometimes nothing happens.  Your life just keeps going on with you as a speck and even with all that insignificance, your heart breaks anyway.  Sometimes you feel like you're dying from pain (and maybe the cold) but maybe that's the time you feel most alive.  Maybe that's when you feel like you have the most clarity.  In your insignificance.

Of course, there's a fine line between masochism and awareness but truly that line and the places where I regularly cross over are my business.  I chuckle as I stumble around some ice.  This little mental exercise would probably fall under the pain-lover side of things.  The ice is both soft and jagged in places.  I should pray for Shackleton but I have gone on alone and left both man and beast far behind.  I am exposed and it's getting colder.  The sun is almost gone and the deadly night will come.  If it starts to snow I am done for.

Hell, I'm already done for and I'm glad about it.

*On 14 July 2012, I saw the silent film "South" which is a documentary of one of my favorite true  stories, The Endurance Expedition.  I've read "South" and seen many of the photographs but had never seen the film.  Sir Ernest Shackleton and his men went on an expedition in 1914 to become the first team to cross Antarctica from one end to the other but their ship, The Endurance, got stuck in the ice and had to be abandoned.  The men, having been marooned on the ice in the middle of winter, had to work together to survive.  One of the centerpieces of the story is when Shackleton picked five men and made a 800 mile journey by sea from Elephant Island to South Georgia Island to get help.  The men used a 22 ft wooden lifeboat from The Endurance to make their voyage.  When the sea water hit the boat, it was so cold that it froze.  It took them four weeks and during the voyage, they were caught in a gale with massive waves.

"Scott for scientific method, Amundsen for speed and efficiency but when disaster strikes and all hope is gone, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton."  -Attributed to Raymond Priestly.

Since I first learned about this true story, I have literally at times in my life prayed for Shackleton for the most amazing thing about this survival story is no one died.  These men were marooned in the most inhospitable environment possible and managed to stay alive.  And Shackleton, nicknamed the Boss by his men, never gave up.


Anonymous said...

Shackleton has no idea what TYP or Capt Jack is and isn't intending to compete with anybody or anything but

he truly hopes the best for Dormy in love and life and writing despite her 180 degree turn and general rottenness since he sacrificed what he really wanted (19) out of loyalty for another who had been very good to him and had neither Magic's vigorous health nor deep family bonds and

when he texts late at night it's not to GET anything or TAKE anything, it's because he misses that baseline human connection which is so rare, and as a sensitive, curious human being wants to reach out and

if it's any fucking consolation wants you, the reader, to know that the moments and days since March 16, 2012 have been hell for him too.

Mock Turtle said...

This post has nothing to do with you. It has to do with me putting down my dog and missing her.

In order for the men to survive, Shackleton's dog handler had to put down their teams of sledding dogs, including the puppies. The handler chose to do it himself, and no, they didn't do it so they could eat them.

You are no Shackleton. You will spend the rest of your days and night wishing, hoping that you have even an ounce of that man's integrity and persistence.

The baseline connection is gone. I am not in hell and haven't been for a long time.

Calling me a bitch, a cunt via text, telling me how rotten I've been and how I did a 180 turnaround, being the mean, verbally abuse jerk that you are doesn't inspire me to want to reconnect.

Go away.