I know that there are no words to make death better and so, I often remain silent for too long when people I know suffer a loss. For all the power of words, they are only words, and they cannot replace the love of a lifetime, a father, husband, or child. They cannot replace the smile, the joy, the humor of one who is no longer.
For months I have been ruminating, exploring my experience on Svalbard. I am leery of processing my photos – they cannot truly represent the exquisite colors and textures of the ice, the ocean, the landscape. They cannot convey the quality of light, the weight of the cold air, or smell of snow. They only pluck at the edges of the vast expanse, the scale of mountains, glaciers, open water, and solitude. It does not seem possible to feel the distance, the isolation, or the fortitude of the place, resolutely anchored in the north with nothing but open water and ice between it and the North Pole.
Now, more than ever in our species’ memories, the Arctic is commonly open water. The ice ages and Little Ice Age are gone. The pack ice of the Arctic Ocean basin, oscillating around the northern axis; building and retreating; seizing ships and men of old; providing a hunting and birthing platform for animals supremely adapted to the cold, the ice, and the dark; releasing accumulated nutrients into the water for the ocean-bound and the flying, diving creatures of summer; this great pack ice is leaving us.
There are no words that can mollify this loss. And yet, now more than ever is no time to be silent.