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Ice, Rock and Light

Written by Jacqui Bushell.

A Journey to the Arcticglacier-illulissat
2010

For the past year I had been dreaming of the Ice; great, vast tracks of ice, massive bergs and glaciers, ice stretching to infinity. I would wake with the colours, smell and feel of the ice which would linger for most of the day. I yearned to be with the ice. It was like a lodestone within me, urging me north and further north, as far as I could travel. It was the Polar Ice cap calling me, not the Antarctic. A long flight to London was followed by a shorter one to Copenhagen, then another to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland. Finally, a long day’s walk in mist and sharp sleet, interspersed with occasional clear sunlight revealing endless miles of barren permafrost and out to the silty morain of the ancient glacier which lead to the vast ice cap itself. I fell in love and was transformed by the deep stillness, the tiny flowers with their immense life force, endless sky, the harshness and wild beauty of the land. And the light! The constant, extraordinary light which never dims over summer. Camping by myself at the edge of the Greenland Ice Cap I learned about yielding to infinity.

The ice is thick and ancient. Walking on it felt literally like walking on time, so unchanging it has been over millennia. The upper layers have been frozen since the last ice age 25,000 years ago (and I was drinking this water!) and the lowest depth of 3km is about 120,000 years old. Remains of leaves have been found at these deepest levels from the time when there was no polar ice. The ancient present, unchanged and frozen across aeons. Such extremes of this land; total darkness for months, covered in snow and ice much of the year with a small thawing above the permafrost during an intense and brightly lit summer. In tarctic-flowerhis stark place the polarities, harshness and wild, raw beauty stripped away all my ‘stories’ and distractions. I felt like I was being pared down to the bone. There was no hiding anything and yet I had a feeling of being deeply ‘held’ throughout. This meant I could exist within this paradox, in deep stillness surrounded with incredible beauty and feel myself part of it all.  In this place where survival is a constant effort, I could rest every part of my being. There was nothing else to do, only live in gratitude, feeling every atom in me and around me infused with Grace and Presence. There is only unifying Oneness

The light changes constantly in the arctic, bright sunshine reflecting brilliantly off the ice, clear endless blue sky glinting on rivulets of rushing water. Then clouds would race overhead making the light and shadows shift, changing everything, giving the ice a pinkish hue, deepening its valleys and shading the mountains. The awe-some vastness and intensity of the immense ice cap never changes. Every time I would look at it I’d feel a visceral clenching of fear along with exhilaration. So harsh and beautiful, utterly exposed, yet vibrant with flowers on the nearby tundra, Canada geese fly overhead, an arctic fox gallops by, a pure white hare stares at me and musk ox and reindeer wander over the permafrost. All this and I'm still myself. Nothing is ever lost.