Wow. Favorite new invention: a full night’s sleep. My head hit the pillow at 9 p.m. last night, and I rolled out of bed at 7 this morning. The world is bright and shiny. The air is fresh. The birds are singing. Okay, no birds – maybe that’s an after-effect of Saturday night. But wow, I feel like I’m actually, properly awake for the first time in weeks.
Now two months into the ice, one and a half to go, and I think we’re all in our stride. Was just talking with Linda yesterday about how we’re all managing to cope. She told me that just after the one month mark was where things seemed to get rough (remember, she’s our HR person). At that point, the newness and adrenaline had worn off, and whatever problems people had brought to the ice with them were bound to start breaking the surface. Everyone who’s still here (almost all of us) has somehow navigated those shoals.
For me, that navigation has really boiled down to taking care of the basics: food, sleep and exercise. If I skimp on any of those, for lack of time or whatever, it goes to hell in a handbasket pretty quickly. If I’ve had a good breakfast (oops!), a good night’s sleep (check!) and gone running any time in the past couple of days, I’m generally good for whatever the Pole can throw at me.
Speaking of going running, I’ve got one last photo from the Race Around the World that I’ve just got to share. Ricky (fastest man at the the bottom of the world) caught this shot out on the sastrugi by the geographic Pole after the race:
Okay… moving right along.
We’re also getting to the point of starting to think about redeployment (that’s what they call it when you come off the ice and return to civilization). The folks who are wintering over are mapping out the week or two in January they’re going to spend on “R&R” in CHC before returning for the unbroken 8 months of winter, and the rest of us are looking ahead to what happens after we get dropped off there for good in February.
What’s strange about making these plans is the realization of how ephemeral this community we’ve built here is. Sure, about half the people on station this summer will be back next year, but half of us (myself included) won’t be. I’ve only known these folks for a couple of months, but it’s surprisingly painful to realize that I’ll never see most of them again. Like, ever, after we leave in February.
Beth recommended planning some buffer time in CHC after redeployment. To get used to things like trees, and bugs and people just walking around. But also, she pointed out, to have time to grieve. Because that’s what people need to do when they come off the ice. I hadn’t thought about it, but I see she’s right. What we’ve got here is a special, crazy, stupid, wonderful, harsh, ineffably beautiful world that we share, and it necessarily creates a bond among the people we share it with. Doesn’t matter if we weren’t particularly close – folks like Tim or Bruce or Kate, who I don’t see any more than just passing in the hall and waving “hi” – I know that if we run into each other anywhere else on this planet, we’ll be inseparable. We’ll reminisce for interminable hours (from other peoples’ perspective) about James Brown bingo, and “Shiny Guy” and “The Freedom Table”. And long for midrats, or the giddy anticipation of a mail pull up the DZ stairs. And maybe we’ll try to explain to our spouses and companions what the hell we’re talking about, or maybe they’ll just understand that You Had To Be There.
I think the fact that this is sinking in early is a good thing. It’s giving me a gentle prod to live in the moment here, to appreciate and savor the unearthly and unique experience, to take it in and make it a part of me. Yes, a part of me that – some time in the future – will make me sad and homesick for a time and place that is gone forever, but like any love lost, will have been well worth the sadness.