“One wonders, after reading a great many such firsthand accounts, if polar explorers were not somehow chosen for the empty and solemn splendor of their prose styles – or even if some eminent Victorians, examining their own prose styles, realized, perhaps dismayed, that by the look of it, they would have to go in for polar exploration.” – Annie Dillard, “An Expedition to the Pole”
Given how relatively few people have actually been to Antarctica, there is a remarkable amount of stuff written about going there. And I guess, buried in my other ambitions, I’ve always assumed I’d write about it too. Maybe a travelogue, maybe something to push me over the edge to actually writing some fiction. But, as the date approaches, I’m coming to grips with the rising expectation that I won’t get to go this year. This isn’t a surprise – I calculated the odds months ago, and they’ve not substantially changed. It’s just that there are no more steps forward in the process.
The initial offer (alternate!) was a big, exciting boost. The successful PQ was a big exciting boost. Each had its adrenaline rush, and seemed to draw an invisible line of progress that made selection feel – intangibly – more inevitable that it was. I blame all those movies and novels pop culture immerses us in. We watch the protagonist fight incredible odds to rescue the girl, win the race, save the planet – whatever. And we know he’s going to succeed, because this is, after all, Hollywood, and if he didn’t win the race, well, the movie would have been made about the other guy, the one who did win it. Right? It’s just assumed.
One of my favorite novels of the past few years has the twist of having our protagonist discover that there is indeed a big, overarching story, and it’s not about her. She’s not even really a part of it, just a spectator (that sort of ruins the ending, so I’m not telling you which book it is, unless you ask me). That’s the way life is 99% of the time, when you live your stories honestly: going forward. So that’s the way a true travelogue ends up getting written – everything we remember is just selection bias.
Anyhow – enough wistful musings. If I don’t make it this year, it’s not the end of the world. I’m still (relatively) young, and as our kids get older, it’s going to be less and less of an issue for me to apply to disappear to the ends of the earth for a couple of seasons.
[What I really intended to write about when I sat down this morning was sunglasses. Polar sunglasses. That’s something I’m jazzed about, if only because it’s easy to get me jazzed about gear. Oh, and Burning Man, too. Only ten days or so until the playa. Much to write about. But it’ll have to wait- I’ve gotta get myself ready for work….]