Thirty-six hours of plane travel later, I’m home and have had enough sleep to string a couple of words together in patterns other people can make some sense of. I think.
The sunrise as we stood on the pier in Punta Arenas waiting for our airport van was the most spectacular I’ve ever seen, bar none. The low, tattered clouds glowed red and orange interwoven with strips of light so bright as to be nearly white. A stone’s throw away, a pair of dolphins played, leaping and splashing. Of course, my camera was packed.
As someone put it during dinner at La Taska (which turned out to be the pub with libations mentioned in the previous post) when a long voyage ends, it’s a strange feeling. You miss home and you can’t wait to see your family again. At the same time, it’s hard to say good-bye to your shipmates. But say good-bye we did — to some who stayed behind on the ship, to some in Santiago, to some in Dallas. With each good-bye, the group got a little smaller, till finally it was just Steve Rock and I headed for San Francisco.
We flew over southern Utah — Zion, Bryce Canyon. I recall looking down on Lake Powell thinking, I want to be down there in the hot, bright sun, floating on my back till every part of me is warm again. John met me at the airport with a hug so wonderful that it was even better than I had imagined it would be — which is saying quite a bit, given my imagination. In a daze, I watched the familiar landmarks slide by. We opened the sunroof, and the wind came in like silk, so different from the iron wind of Antarctica.
As soon as we got home, I went out to look at the garden, which I found transformed by the month of June. Bees hummed, leaves rustled, green shoots had blossomed into brilliant colors. The trees were loaded with fruit. I picked a Santa Rosa plum, ripe and warmed by the sun, and ate it on the spot as the juice ran down my chin. I don’t know if I have ever tasted anything quite so good before.
That has been my approximate state since Wednesday morning — after the austere beauty of the Scotia Sea, the unimaginable lushness of a temperate latitude. Everything is so intense. It’s like being a child again.
Kristof, yes, my understanding is that NPR will do a longer piece on our icebreaker voyage sometime in the next few weeks. Stay tuned. Peggy, thank you. I hope you are right, because communicating something about this important research to people who are not scientists was one of my goals. And Phil, I’ll be dancing in the park tomorrow, as a matter of fact, with great pleasure. (We are talking about Tai Chi, sometimes known as the slow dance.)
Ah…and what about my land legs? Merciful heavens be praised, it appears the whole problem was that I had my land legs all along. I haven’t suffered a moment’s “dock rock” since leaving the ship. There is justice in the world.