The Silence of the North

I find myself being still.

At first I was jittery. When I was not in the lounges on the ship, being social, when I was in my room, I would shuffle through the papers on my desk. Should I write in my trip journal? No, that was all caught up. Could I play a game of Candy Crush? No, I’d used up my lives, and there was no restocking without the Internet.

I suppose it was withdrawal that was affecting me! When we were caught in Iqaluit an extra day, waiting for an icebreaker, I texted and posted frantically, knowing that I would soon lose cell coverage.

Contemplate that, you who are reading this blog on your phone or computer. No internet.

No checking messages or emails. No almost instantaneous answer to whatever question pops up. No streaming music or videos, no informational rabbit holes to fall into.

The first time we traveled through ice, I ran back and forth on the deck. Can I get a good shot of the icebreaker in front of us, through the fog? Should I do a video of the ice going by? Is it better from the other side? From a different deck?

Icebreaker Terry Fox leading the way

Now, I simply stand and look. And listen. It is not loud, but I can hear the multi-tonal song of the ice.

The landscape calms me. It is not simple: complex layers of rock, smooth and glacier scoured; tiny Arctic flowers tucked into hollows; linear boundaries of land and sky, land and water. It is not simple, but it is not busy.

The sky surrounds. It is not held up by mountains here, it lays as a soft blanket over the land and sea. The clouds do not pile up, constrained by mountains and conflicting air currents. They drift, like the ice in the water.

My gaze drifts. It will focus, checking, is there an animal there on the rock, on the ice? What is that bird? But my gaze does not dart.

My thoughts drift. They will focus, thinking, is there an insight there in the introspection, in the wandering though memories? But my thoughts do not dart.

This is the stillness that meditation brings, but it is grounded in the land, not in my mind. It lives in my vision, not my breath.

Two years ago, after a week long silent meditation retreat, I held this same stillness inside of me. Gradually it retreated to the quiet corners of my mind, became elusive, harder to find, often forgotten.

I hope the silence of the North stays with me, when I return to the south.

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