The Divine Arctic Comedy, Purgatory

Purgatory        Ice       Present


Millennial. Annual. Tangible. Visible.


Alaska, Barry Lopez, animals, Antigua, Arctic, Arctic Ocean, autumn, climate change, coal, Esmarkbreen, glacier, gratitude, hiking, ice, jigsaw, Longyearbyen, mine number 2, mines, mining, Norway, Oslo, perimeter, photography, puzzle, Recherchebreen, Recherchefjorden, Roads, scale, scree, slopes, snow, Spitsbergen, Svalbard, tall ship, talus, The Arctic Circle, travel, walkabout, water, west, winter, words, world, Ymerbukta


Advance – Water became ice. Masses of ice ranged from the north across oceans, continents, and islands; tongues extended from mountain tops to valleys, grinding through walls of stone, depositing sediments via meltwater. Sea level dropped as cold held water in its solid form. Earth’s crust deformed, depressed by the weight of ice, and its rotation shifted as the mass on the north side of the globe held sway.


Our time – Products of geologic time, humans found their way to the far north, ever expanding their range, ever devouring that which they believed to be rightfully theirs. The Cosmos, now in our hands, took a new shape. We moved mountains, tilled bottomlands, mined minerals, metals, and power. We tamed, maimed, and killed animals, plants, forests, and oceans. We harnessed fire and created ice on demand. We built new substances from the elements, exploiting natural structures to suit our desires, turning oil to plastic and coal to heat.


Retreat – Ice becomes water. Glacial ice, pack ice, shore-fast ice, it all melts. Sea level rises; shorelines drown. Our heat does not dissipate, but instead stagnates overhead, trapping us in our effluent. Hurricanes, cyclones, blizzards, forest fire, drought, floods, the Earth we manipulate responds in kind. We hide in our denials, in our superiority, in our arrogance. Our expectation that Earth is ours is flawed. The sun oversees all. Its cycles are unaware of our needs or our existence. It is fire not harnessed.


We are not rulers of Earth, nor conquerors or tamers. We are stewards. Our tenure will be marked not by our great deeds or structures, nor our mass upon Earth’s surface. Rather, we will be remembered for our refuse and that which was lost during our watch. In place of glaciers and polar bears, we leave pit mines and plastic water bottles.


We have agency, and we have created the untenable. A new equilibrium, not yet reached, is imminent. We of the Present, we are in Limbo, Purgatory.




Every empire must fall.


Disintegrate, v.: to lose unity or integrity by or as if by breaking into parts


“Would the last animal, eating garbage and living on the last scrap of land, his mate dead, would he still forgive you?” Barry Lopez