Thursday, November 29, 2007

Ice Ghost

I'm thrilled to say that my narrative of spending February 2007 on Alaska's north slope will appear as "Ghost on the Ice" in The Best Travel Writing 2008 (you can see the 2007 volume here). Some excerpts below:



Sometimes I crossed frozen lakes, the black ice, six feet thick and hard as bottle-glass, screeching under my crampon spikes. I often knelt to examine shapes that seemed to move beneath the surface. Through the thick, irregular lens of frozen water, spectral gray bubbles seemed to wobble if I moved my head from side to side, and I did this to keep them in their surreal, drunken motion. Some were big as balloons, others like marbles. Deeper forms were blury. In some places, multitudes of star-white points clustered like rising soda fizz. And there were isolated specks, lonely as interstellar dust. The surface of the space-black ice was often broken by inch-wide cracks that shot and jagged like lightening bolts hurled from the sky and caught int he ice. Most of the cracks were filled with snow and the broad gray slots dropping into the ice looked like curtains or guillotines. Occasionally the scenes would be obscured as a gust-driven swarm of sparkling grains slid across the ice.


One morning a stiff wind drove the temperature down to seventy degrees below zero. The wind rushed through my face, bypassing skin and muscle to directly attack the bone. It felt as though a screwdriver had been jammed between plates of bone in my skull and was prying them apart...


On my 20th morning in this frozen world the Earth rolled another fraction and the rind of the sun flowed up and over the horizon, a syrupy slash of bloody red and molten copper. Turning from the roiling blaze, I saw that the snowscape was now an irregular checkerboard of hues. A million wind-scalloped hollows brooded watery green, cold cups patterned regularly between batallions of small wavelets and whips of windblown snow that stood up a little, their peaks catching the light and glowing as if lit from within. The snow radiated a misty pink and the expanse of delicate shades leaping away from my boots in all directions seemed so bouyant that I imagined the entire tundra lifing slowly and gently floating away, an immense flying carpet. For a moment I forgot the cold and allowed myself to believe that I was in a magical place.

(c) 2007 Cameron McPherson Smith

2 comments:

Blues Greene said...

Great stuff Cameron. And a big thanks for the tape and Odetta clip. She's so powerful; a chilling performance. I'll definitely come back here again.

Prunella said...

This is great info to know.