CRESCENTS IN THE ICE
If it got dark here in Antarctica we would be able to observe a waxing crescent moon emerge this week. The moon is rising and falling above us, invisible, out-shined by the ever-present sun.
The next sunset and sunrise here is on February 20th.
But if you watch the shoreline there are sleek blue, vital crescents forming in the sea ice every day, rimmed by the sharp, fresh edges of ivory ice splitting apart. When there is a strong wind, floating ice moves, fast. At the heads and points of this island, the places where the volcanic rock is stubborn enough to resist the elements, ice bends to the pressures of the geography and snaps open.
Viewed from the ridge above, bent ice is old skin pulled around a bent knee. The anatomy of Antarctica is bare and naked frozen water and glacial ice for the most part, save for the cold depths beneath the rest of the rigid skin, spread out until another appendage of fractured bedrock interrupts the ripple off in the unintelligible distance.
Last spring I spent time in New York City observing open heart surgery from the intimate vantage of a step-stool positioned directly at the head of the horizontal, anesthetized patient. I was scrubbed in and could stand with my welder’s flip-down mask and hover directly over the open chasm of chest to watch the nimble hands of the surgeons repair and replace aortic valves. An old valve would be cut out, handed to the assisting nurse who would then hand it to me and my cohorts to touch and explore the sensual, delicate membrane, now riddled with plaque hard as porcelain and destined for the biohazard bin.
Sterile bright white sheets were spread in sharp contrast to the colorful, animistic organs below. The heart, now still, was soon to be reinvigorated, the chest closed and the skin sutured back together.
As I stand over the open leads of water, poised above the crescents of fractured, drifting summer ice, I cannot help but see the analogs of the two anatomical apertures. One availed a view to the heart. The heart. The other open to the plasma of ocean below. Both are vital, just below the skin; the skin we live in. The skin we walk upon, often as invisible to us as the rising crescent moon in this bright, austral summer sky.