This is a bit of an extension of an earlier posting (and a comment from Fran), I know, but what happened at the Y today just needs to be shared. As usual I started my day by writing for a few hours. I needed to send a short bio statement off to the conference that I’m speaking at in February, pay a few online bills …. and of course work on the blog. I’ve quite taken to this blogging activity and it really is important to me (hope you’re enjoying it too … if you are, why not pop in a comment).
So, back to the Y. I put on a few pounds in Antarctica (why is it that pushing 60 requires pumping heavy weights?); although we were working hard on those landings that didn’t seem to balance out the excellent meals or the daily “happy hour” non-calorie-burning activities. Too bad for me that talking doesn’t burn many calories! (Okay … those of you who know me and are now guffawing … calm down!). I’ve been quite consistent in getting to the Y and working out since my return home (a mystery: why do pound appear so much faster than they disappear?) On this particular day I’d spent about 20 minutes doing weight training, rode a stationary bike for 20 minutes, and did a deep water aquafit class. After a brief respite in the whirlpool and a long shower I was just starting to dry my hair when I overheard two women talking; one of them was congratulating the other on just being named to the Order of Canada (the centrepiece of Canada’s honours system, it recognizes a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation. This link will take you to a list of all of the Members of the Order of Canada). Wrapped in a towel (see, that’s another reason I don’t need to buy clothes much these days), I approached them and quite brazenly, I suppose ,asked “Who are you?” The first to respond was Judith Thompson, a prominent Canadian playwright (I try to see her plays whenever I can because I think she’s fabulous; didn’t recognize her though). The other woman was a publisher and I didn’t get her name but I think it was Angela Rebeiro. That initial question I asked did lead to a long conversation with Ms. Thompson and a moment of clear insight (I think; never sure about that though … especially these days).
Since I’ve been reading books about blogs lately, I followed some advice I’d read (I do recommend it if you’re interested in blogging) and immediately gave both of them my “For The First Time” card – that’s been my interim answer to the calling card dilemna I was thinking about last July … for now. This led to a long conversation about why I started doing this, and a lot of head nodding as I talked about us (see, brazen, I was including me in her peer group) as the first generation of women who really benefited from the gains made by the Women’s Movement who now had to deal with issues of identity as we left our careers behind – or at least left our jobs behind (see, I’m starting to equivocate about this!). She asked about what I was doing these days and my answer led to one of those ah-ha moments; mostly what I’m doing these days is writing so I guess that means I’m a writer now.
This insight (if that’s what it is) led to a number of other questions that are spinning around in my still-foggy brain: Do you have to be published to call yourself a writer? Does a fairly long list of academic and professional publications count? Can I identify myself as a writer or do I have to wait for that identification until somebody else says: “Hey, Sylvia, you’re a writer”? Biggest question of all of course – does any of this matter anyhow? Maybe that’s the next lesson for me: Lesson #9: As I think about, and make decisions, don’t forget to ask the critical question … “DOES THIS MATTER?”
ANTARCTICA JOURNAL EXCERPT: Dec 18/08 – Dec 19/08
Although the gravol and exhaustion had lulled me to sleep around 9:30 tonight, I pulled myself out of bed at 11 to catch a glimpse of a sunset; I hadn’t seen one yet because our cabin’s porthole was on the side of the ship facing away from sunset. Holding on to the rails as I worked my way outside, holding on tight because 25 foot waves aren’t something to take lightly, I thought about the amazing experiences of the past few days. Startled to find another traveller (it was Grumplestiltskin – an older fella from Scotland who always seemed so crabby and unhappy) gazing out over the cold water. How amazing this entire experience has been/still is.
I got myself out of bed again at 3:45 a.m. to catch a sunrise. Hard as it was go bundle up at that early hour (it was really cold outside) I wasn’t disappointed. As the sun slowly rose I was greeeted by the sight of a Giant Petrel flying by. Awesome! By 6 a.m. (after catching some more sleep) I was on the bridge looking out over an expanse of grey-blue water and before me – some 18 miles away – was Cape Horn. There’s a palpable excitement in the air this morning as folks gather here and on the deck below with the words “land ahoy” on our lips. Many of us were wondering if this meant that soon the seas would calm down. Mixed feelings for sure this morning. Our adventure is drawing to a close. Tomorrow morning we’ll be back on terra firma and Antarctica will be a memory. Cape Horn. Tierra Del Fuego. As the website says: “Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of South America, remains a maritime legend to this day, as sailing around this remote point and then through the Drake Passage was (and is) one of the most challenging nautical routes on the planet”. I feel like I’m living in a Grade 8 geography/history book! No more penguins porpoising in the water. No albatross following the ship. I have walked at the ends of the earth, though, and there in the frozen water and glacier-covered shores I was able to reach deep into myself and see – really see with all the experience bound into that word – the beauty and wonder of creation.
Soon a group of us had gathered in the Observation Lounge, drinking tea and coffee (depending on where you hailed from) and making sure we had each other’s contact information (I had picked up the list by then but that only had e-mail addresses on it). At 6:45 we heard Ian’s “Good Morning Polar Star” for the final time. We headed outside one more time and there it was in the distance: Ushuaia. Breakfast was at 7:15 and consisted of an amalgam of whatever morning foods were still left; yogurt, granola and melon had run out days earlier, toast was still plentiful. We exited the dining room and headed for our cabin (we’d left our big backpacks in the hall outside our room the night before; those packs had been an added obstacle as I made my way through the ship over the night to take photos). Not actually knowing what the disembarkation routine was (an oversight of the expedition team for sure) so we headed to the reception counter to collect our passports and trip CD and, hand in hand, we walked down the gangplank and onto the pier at 8 a.m. Our trip to Antarctica was over … almost. We still have a day to spend around Ushuaia, a flight back to Buenos Aires, and a flight home. Somehow I’m guessing our adventure’s not over yet.