Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Notes from a Greenland Evening

The view from here...

“July 25, 11pm.  The glare of the late night sun reflects off the water, bouncing into the studio through the glass windows and rebounding off the white walls, dazzling. Shouldn’t have to squint like this inside, so far north.  Today was mild and the fog lifted.  People were out painting their houses, kids playing everywhere, loud laughter following me into the house like the light from outside.

I’d want to be outside too, day and night, not sleeping all summer, if I knew the sun would leave in the fall and not roll around again til February. I’d like to spend a winter in the Arctic (to torture myself?!) I could see the Northern Lights then.  I really want to go to Svalbard!! It’d be cheaper and easier to get to than here.  Just about anywhere would be.

Now that my days are numbered here in Greenland, I feel more grounded, less untethered.  When the time felt limitless, there was less urgency to hone in and get things done.  My focus is sharp now.  I’m on task. This always happens to me- artist’s residencies see me foundering some in the beginning when there’s so much to take in, so much to adjust to. I’ve come to realize this is normal.

Art projects are going well, I’m in heaven with the time I now have to CREATE.   I’ve been slacking on filming these last few days, painting more.  I lost some video clips that I’d filmed- a rare set of interviews! It was a camcorder glitch, and I was so mad at myself that I had to put it all away for a few days.  Writing all the time too, constantly scratching notes, scribbling things here and there. Obsessive. I don’t think I have a future as a landscape painter, but I’m enjoying the acrylic and oil sketches I’ve been doing every afternoon and evening, mostly of the ice.  Honestly, I’m just in love with pushing the paint around and losing myself in the brush strokes. It doesn’t always matter what I’m painting.

working on small painting studies from a photos on my laptop

I went up to the airport today to see if I could change my flight. I’m not scheduled to leave until August 5, but technically the residency is over on the first.  Another artist arrives then. But no go.  I’d hoped to get back to Kangerlussuaq and spend time at the International Science Support building, talking to scientists about their weird projects- things like Arctic caterpillars, microbes, and the probability of life on Mars.  I spent the night there on my way in last month.  There’s some fascinating things going on at that place.

Kangerlussuaq International Science Support building.  Non-descript outside, full of intrigue inside.

But it’s not to be.  I don’t know yet what I’ll do. I hope serendipity intervenes again, same as with the kayak expedition. I may have blown my good standing with that magic this time around. Time will tell!!  I spend too much of my time worrying, removing myself from the present moment so I miss it.  Yuck!  Anxiety may be a natural response to contemporary life, but it’s also a great way to miss the joy of being alive.

Someday I’ll be gone from here and I’ll miss watching the icebergs from my desk and bedroom window, miss listening to the waves lapping the shore as I fall to sleep.

I really do keep dreaming of home.  So many people from my past have shown up to entertain me at night!!  I know it’s because I have felt lonely up here at times, not part of this world, just a tourist who can’t speak the language.  That’s been really hard.  My heart aches for the people I miss, and for those I know I have lost for good.

Sometimes I wish I could be like “normal” people, have a steady job, not try to save the world, not be so different. Just go to work, get a paycheck, come home.  Just HAVING a house to come home to, now that would be something!  I know myself too well though.  I’d never be satisfied with that.

I took a long hike today up the east side of the island, around the cliffy north end, and back the west side.  I love it for it’s beauty, and the pure solitude that puts me at ease.  I can feel the spaciousness.  The blue of the distance, the glint of the ice, the deep beds of moss that measure their growth in millimeters from year to year- these things seem so steadfast, calming the restlessness I carry with me and silencing my fears. Some days I’m overtaken by the indescribable beauty of this place.  And just by being alive.”


There’s something about a creative residency that is one part heaven, one part hell.  Read  Life in Lady Writer Heaven by Courtney Martin for more on the topic. She's writer in residence at Hedgebrook Farm on Whidbey Island, WA, and she describes so well the joy and struggle of unmitigated creative time.  I felt instant kinship when I read her words, and if you are another creative, so will you. 

1 comment:

  1. You begin your journey home in four days! I can't wait to see you and hear more. We all miss you too and it continues to be such a pleasure to read your words and live vicariously through you on this unrivaled adventure. xoxo