Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Waiting for the ice

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Eskimo at seal hole

A second pattern [in the Arctic] complements this oscillation—long stillnesses broken by sudden movement. The river you have been traveling over by dogsled every week for eight months, and have come to think of as a solid piece of the earth, you wake one day to find a heaving jumble of ice. The spring silence is broken by pistol reports of cracking on the river, and then the sound of breaking branches and the whining pop of a falling tree as the careening blocks of ice gouge the riverbanks. A related but far eerier phenomenon occurs in the coastal ice. Suddenly in the middle of winter and without warning a huge piece of sea ice surges hundreds of feet inland, like something alive. The Eskimo call it ivu. The silent arrival of caribou in an otherwise empty landscape is another example. The long wait at a seal hole for prey to surface. Waiting for a lead to close. The Eskimo have a word for this kind of long waiting, prepared for a sudden event: quinuituq. Deep patience.

Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams

Written by nevalalee

February 7, 2015 at 9:00 am

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