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The Very Real Threats of Geology

Friday, Nov. 5--5:51

In my neck of the woods, geology is practically invisible. There are hills, yes—but life lived almost entirely in a car negates even those. (It wasn’t until Barbara got me running that I realized all the hills I’d been ignoring; that was a black, black day.) (Shakes head mournfully.)


Northern Virginia not only is profoundly tamed by the hand of man, but the geology there is old. It’s worn down. It needs a nap at around 3, followed by a cup of caffeinated tea. I, she said archly, am a lot like the geology of northern Virginia.


(Save for the “tamed by the hand of man” part naturally. The patriarchy be damned!)


Patagonia’s geology is like a broken tooth. The shards at the tops of these mountains would rip your tongue to shreds. It’s incredibly dramatic, and—if created by some consciousness or another—cruel as hell. These are not gently-rounded domes; these aren’t even the Rocky Mountains from a distance.


These are the abominable snowman’s mouth before Herbie “I Want To Be A Dentist” pulls all the broken stuff.


The view from my panoramic window is jaw-dropping. Otherworldly. Mesmerizing. When I took my 3:00 nap (I wasn’t the only one to take advantage; Lucho on his loudspeaker advised we all take the time to rest. But I was perhaps the happiest to do so), I turned my bed around, sort of. The bunk is made up with the pillows against the outer wall, but once I put my head where my feet were supposed to be, I could open my eyes every time I came out of a doze and be staggered by yet another angry, dramatic drama queen of a fjord wall, her over-the-top crevasses edged in snow and the water slate grey and deep at her feet.


Oh, yes. If abandoned here for some rom-com type reason, I would definitely be the first one to die. (Poor rom-com trope, by the way.) This is a part of the world where skill at summoning an Uber has no value at all. Grub Hub don’t deliver here, my friends. We’re in the Big Wild now. And I can’t stop gazing and gazing and gazing. From inside my posh little Nat Geo world. I’m TRULY in a bubble here. Not one that protects me (or others) from contagion, but one that protects me from the wilderness that would kill me without even knowing I’d died. I am LOVING this experience, the way I love looking at cobras in the zoo. Holy shit—this is WILD.


Before the 4:00 “meet your incredibly long list of naturalists” session, I went to the Chart Room to get some tea. The Chart Room is on the same level as my cabin, which is terribly convenient…except that if you don’t want to go outside to get there (and I want to get there, as there is 24-hour tea and coffee), you have to go downstairs and up the next staircase.


Otherwise you can go out the deck door just past my cabin and walk along an outside walkway. I thought I’d not bother with a coat this afternoon, as the temperatures are really quite mild. It was almost 50 degrees while we were out puttering around in the Zodiaks this morning.


But I’d forgotten that Lucho had mentioned—once outside of the small fjord we were in, the wind was even stronger than it was when we got off the plane. (And several of the smaller women in the group nearly took flight once more—this time without benefit of Lockheed or Boeing—while going down the airplane stairs; it was lean-against-this-wind-and-just laugh fast.)


So when I went to get my tea, having forgotten about the wind, at first I thought the door to the deck was locked. It wasn’t; it just required all my bulk to push it open. And I was NOT one of the little women who was nearly defeated by yesterday’s wind…but I greeted today’s demonstration with a shout of surprise and delight and horror. Once again—the theme of today’s sermon: HOLY SHIT.


I returned to my room via the floor below. I seriously wasn’t sure I could have opened that door from the wind side. (Plus on the lower floor? Cookies! It’s important in this high-velocity air to keep up the bulk, lest I, too, lose my footing like some delicate little flower for whom I have contempt and envy.)


The waves are bigger and studded with whitecaps (no wonder, with this wind). I was looking for spumes from breathing whales, but it became an exercise in futility as even-faster gusts of wind pick up cats tails of surface water and dance them across the ocean—which, to my innocent eyes, is every bit as interesting as the briefly-seen back of what the naturalists this morning all referred to as “humpies.” This abbreviation partly disgusts me (like when Jonathan would put on his “sneaks” instead of his sneakers; cut that out!) and party delights me. Of course they must know all the humpbacks by their first names; it’s RIGHT that they’ve abbreviated their friends names, right?)


As the surface of the sea has gotten a bit more vigor, the boat has taken on a delicious slow roll, like a slo-mo canter on a horse. It’s going to make for blissful sleeping tonight—not to mention the giggle-rich entertainment of all these old white-hairs like me staggering around making jokes about “I didn’t think I was this drunk!” as the ship moves.


I shouldn’t be surprised that any Nat Geo expedition would have SUCH an emphasis on photography. I just went to the photography intro and learned all kinds of things that my iPhone can do—which I shall immediately forget…which will be fine. Several friends said before I left, “Oh, I can’t wait to see your photos when you get back!” but who really wants to see the trip photos from someone else’s vacation? I think it’s a lie. So I’m taking photos when I just can’t resist…but I’m trying to experience more than document. That’s the plan, anyway.


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