The day we made our Antarctic continental landing (the first day of 2014), I was in the last group to go ashore. We went on a zodiac ride around icebergs while we waited. We saw a small group of penguins clustered at the edge of an iceberg the size of my apartment building and a Wedell seal sleeping on a small shelf. Some skuas flew overhead. The weather was clear but gray. Dry. The edges of the zodiac pushed against the ice. At one point, I reached my hand down to feel the cold.
Near the end, while we puttered through brash ice, the naturalist stalled the zodiac. He said we’d sit in silence for a few minutes and listen.
The world around us settled into gradations of quiet, reminiscent of that world’s gradated colors: blue and gray and white. In retrospect, moments like that take on the aspect of lungs: that expanding, paused moment of fullness, when you’ve taken in what you can and you wait. The weather was cold and I remember that my actual, non-metaphorical lungs ached. But we held there, until another zodiac bumped into the ice behind us and we turned and let them clear a path ahead.
I think about that silence a lot. That pause.
Today would have been my cousin’s eighteenth birthday.