Smithsonian Syndrome

When I was much younger, my parents took our family to Washington, D.C. On two separate occasions we went to the Smithsonian Museum. Being from California and of a rather tender age on each trip, I believed that the Smithsonian was one giant building. That went on forever. That you were going to get lost in if you didn’t hold hands with a parent or a brother. That you would never be found again.

The idea terrorized me. And fascinated me. How big was a building where no one could find you? How would it feel to be that alone? How would it feel to be lost in something so big?

I found answers in Antarctica.

The 7th Continent is vast. It is so immense that you could be lost forever in its harsh and beautiful arms.

It is on day 9 of the trip that I was overcome, overwhelmed by what I was seeing and feeling. I took photo after photo.

But no photo, taken by professional or not, can capture what it feels like to see an iceberg calve and roll 200 yards in front of you. No photo can convey the SMELL of a penguin rookery. Or the sound of a glacier cracking. Or the thrill of seeing a pod of Orca whales speed through dark, cold water. Or the warmth of the water in the caldera of a volcano.

But those photos remind me of those sounds and smells and sensations.

By Day 9 I didn’t know the names of the places we landed. By that day I began to sit and absorb my surroundings. I vividly remember sitting just a few feet from a Gentoo penguin “resting” on a beach. It was ignoring me. I sat and listened to a chinstrap penguin sing to the universe. I stood still and watched young fur seals playing and in the silence of the air I listened to the ocean crashing on the other side of Neptune’s window at Deception Island.

It all told me that my presence on this earth was temporary. At best, to Antarctica, my presence was insignificant.

 

There is no way for me, with all my words, to give the reader a true sense of the feelings that are Antarctica.

As I said at the beginning, Antarctica is not a place–it is a feeling. Of loneliness, grandeur, power and wonder.

There is more to say but photos and feelings need to be processed. Watch this space. There is more to come.

1 thought on “Smithsonian Syndrome

  1. ❤❤❤❤❤

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