Even as I child I have always had a fascination with and curiosity for nature and science. As we are celebrating Earth Day this month, I was reminded of an unforgettable experience that I had with the profound beauty that mother earth affords. I hope that by sharing in this blog a few of the photos that I took during that adventure, will give you some sense of what it was like for me.
Seven years ago, my wife’s sisters and one of my brothers-in-law, some nieces and nephews, came together from all over the world and assembled in Vancouver, BC, Canada, to embark on a week-long cruise through the Inner Passage of Alaska. It was a first time experience for all of us. As a photography hobbyist, I came with an extra layer of excitement and adventure, and some preconceived expectations of the place that I have acquired from my readings and from photos that I have seen about Alaska. Part of the cruise was a scheduled trip to the South Sawyer Glacier, which can be reached by sailing through the narrow Tracy Arm Fjord. It was then that I realized that I was not fully prepared for the magnificent and stunning beauty that I saw.
As the captain of our cruise ship guided the vessel gently and slowly through the fjord to get us to the face of the retreating glacier, the majesty of the place muted the vocabulary of my ordinary day to day language. The prose became inadequate to describe what I was seeing around me. Rather, the experience summoned a vernacular I don’t often use. The words were welling up to my tongue from deep within me, like sand kicked up by me feet when I walk in clear ocean waters. They came without any aforethought, and were as random as the myriad of beauty that I was beholding inside that fjord. For fear of losing those thoughts, I pulled out my mobile phone and launched the notes app, making sure that I recorded the words being carried up to my tongue by the emotions that were welling up from deep within me.
An Ode to the Glaciers of Alaska
With your mighty hand you covered the earth with a blanket of ice aeons ago. Its gargantuan weight pressed on the earth below. In its irrepresible march forward, it carved valleys and gorges in its path through the earth – imprinting it, as it were, with the shape of the fingers of your hand.
In its wake rose mountains with granite cliffs as it melted and retreated, lifting upon their shoulders as they ascended to the sky, ice fields that now crown their heads.
And so on their sheer cliffs cascade many waterfalls, whose thunderheads are fed by lakes of ice above. They flow down like tears behind veils of mist, that make their dispassionate granite faces aloof no more.
They empty into pristine emerald waters below, and sleep gently in the stillness of the fjord’s embrace. And now in the grandeur of its solitude, is whispered your creative love – love that forms beauty even out of the desolation.
I have long believed that God imprinted in all of us the language of imagination, so that when the rote rules of prosaic conversation fail us, we have a reservoir of words not bound by ordinary grammatical rules that we can summon in order to give meaning to the extraordinary things that we see and experience. This happens when we are confronted with the transcendent grandeur and beauty of God’s creation, and by the mysteries of the passions of life. While some are better schooled than others, I am convinced that we are all poets.