Home Before Dark

I have been gone for most of October out on the Arctic Circle Residency which was an amazing experience. Writing about that will come later. This is about coming home. We arrived, 30 of us, back in Longyearbyen after an intense few weeks seeing and experiencing amazing things and developing close bonds such as one develops on board a ship sharing space for so many days.
And I was immediately impelled into the spin cycle of busy-ness without time to catch my breath. Over the week I said gradual farewells to my friends, got back to work, had an opening for one of my residency artists, attended a friend’s show, had what felt like innumerable coffees and dinners, with no chance to settle.

Today, I decided to go out and walk along the shore. Last Thursday we had an Arctic gale that drenched us with rain, and then froze it again before we could breath. The results of that deluge are everywhere in ice, more than I realized. So much freshwater ice along the fjord, I didn’t expect that.

The light is dim and ranges from blue grey to pale lilac depending on where the sun is located during its few hours of presence. Today there is only 3 hours of sun above the horizon. That makes the lights soft and fading and very beautiful on a cloudy day like this. I walked along the shore, often confronted by ice in places I didn’t expect it. The ice is solid, but the texture is soft as the freshwater ice is influenced by the salt water tides and seems uncertain if it should melt or not.

I hoped to find some of artist Margaret Byrd’s temporary ice installations still in situ, and was delighted to find two. Ice colored with natural plant dyes from other places, other islands. They are beautiful and quirky and I think they are marvelous.

There are two of them easily found along the shore. If you are in town, it is a delight to find them and contemplate their bright tropical colors against our increasingly blue and dim landscape. After a brief chat with my mechanic (no, my glow plugs aren’t in yet, but they have made it to Tromsø so that is good) I walked up my beloved Longyear River.

I would rather have had the Milkiveien Bridge instead of this pedestrian bridge, or this placed where the Milkevein bridge used to be, but the red was nice against the dark, and I liked the counterpoint of the abandoned red snowmobile beside it. The river was smooth, and full, and showed many places where the flooding had run, freezing as it flowed.

The Longyear river is dredged and dredged and all summer it behaves nicely and flows where it is supposed to. But it doesn’t take much rain or melt water for the river to remember who it really is, and flow in all the ways that braided rivers want to run to the sea. I wasn’t looking for this evidence of its stubbornness, but was pleased inside to see it. I’m also a bit too stubborn to always do what I’m supposed to, and perhaps that is one of the reasons I love this river. It is well behaved until it isn’t.

I didn’t follow the river all the way up, though it was tempting. But I have things to do, and so must do them. But now that I have walked the shore, and walked a section of the river — now I feel I am home. Now I feel grounded again. Home again. And ready for the dark.

6 thoughts on “Home Before Dark”

  1. I love this. It helped me to know Longyearbyen more. It took a few days after our trip, but now I too, feel more grounded now. Your words helped me.

    1. Elizabeth Bourne

      I’m so glad to know it helped! I think we all have a feeling of loss to deal with — the fellowship of the Antigua and the going out twice a day to be in this amazing landscape — I was surprised how long it took me to settle, and it was the walk in familiar beloved places that did it.

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