Suspecting that the Republican National Convention would turn Downtown Cleveland into a Robocop-esque martial law clusterfuck, I recently took time off work and took a cruise to Alaska to avoid the insanity and epic commutes. It was an amazing trip. Alaska is pretty goddamn beautiful. We saw bald eagles flying around every which where (in Alaska they’re about as common as geese are here). Humpback whales breached in front of our boat in Juneau’s Auke Bay. There was the midnight sun. I easily quintupled my working knowledge of totems and totem carving. At a town a 2-hour drive from the nearest Walmart or fast food place, we retraced the path prospectors took to the gold rush in the Yukon.
On the ship itself, we had many good times lounging on the stern, surrounded by open water and distant ghostly mountains, sipping ginger ale, conspiring – as we do (don’t be fooled, this marriage thing is just one long conspiracy).
And arguably my favorite part: I saw so many freaking glaciers.
Of course, the trip wasn’t without a low point or two.
We had a pretty terrible tour guide in Kenai Fjords when we were doing the hike up to Exit Glacier. It takes a special kind of skepticism to deny climate change while you’re standing in front of a melting glacier. But that’s precisely what she did.
And sadly, she wasn’t the first. Another guide had done similar in Juneau at Mendenhall. “Well, we don’t have all the facts.” He told us he’d moved to Alaska originally because their homeschooling laws were so permissive. “All it says is ‘you must school your children,’ no stipulation how.”
In Glacier Bay, we were introduced to Margerie Glacier (pictured). Margerie is a healthy glacier, one still expanding. The ranger told us that although there were over 1000 in the adjacent ice field, this was one of the only ones that was building up faster than it was melting away. And even still, Margerie’s rate of advance has slowed over the years. The trends are not encouraging, and while people can point to one instance or another that contradicts the pattern, the more data that is analyzed, the worse it looks – and if you know anything about degrees of freedom and statistical power, well… you know the ice giants are right fucked if stay on the course we’re on.
Still, glaciers are quite beautiful, and I’m thrilled to have had a chance to see some before they melt away forever.
I feel a kind of obligation to them, too. As limited edition as they are, my own life moves with a quickness theirs never do. I’m ephemeral, gone instantaneously. It makes insecurity, fear, and attachment all seem silly, mourning those things we have for only so briefly, only knowing each other obliquely out of the corner of one eye and always largely through imagination.