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Growlers

Updated: May 11

Thoughts on icebergs, dog shit, and death.


I’ve been uncharacteristically passive on this self-designed residency in Ilulissat, Greenland. Maybe it’s because my 11 year old is distracting me from the lonely luxury of introversion and reflection which usually fuels my most frenzied activity. Maybe it’s the quiet and unresolved health issues following me here like a small pebble in my boot, irritating and annoying, but not yet worthy of my full attention. Maybe it’s because of the news of the world that still seeps through the cracks, despite the shitty wifi. The icebergs keep coming, like babies being born into the world despite all of the aggressive posturing in the headlines. Just when you get familiar with the glossy landscape of the big bergs and the smaller chunks of ice called growlers, you turn your back on them, and when you look back to the harbor they are gone and are replaced with new ones. The old ice is already at sea, swirling outside your view, beginning its slow decline. The ice is coming faster and faster these days, and the calving season is longer and longer.

We’ve been sleeping surprisingly well here, all things considered. The air is crisp and clean, almost as if we’re the first to breathe it in. It smells right out of the box, unused. We have a little vented contraption on our bedroom wall which allows us to funnel the air into the room evenly in manageable amounts while we sleep, probably to keep us from sleeping with the windows wide open, letting in the wind as it comes from the east behind the building. There’s nothing back there except the vast icy cover of Greenland for miles and miles. People in this country only live along the coast. There is nothing inland but an ice cap and that wind.

There are a handful of sled dogs that live right behind the building on the cusp of that wilderness, curled up in the swirling frost and snow, their perimeter marked by frozen dog shit. In the winter, they take fishermen out on the ice to line-fish halibut, but right now they are resting in their tiny boxes. Tourist season has just started, and maybe someone will call to book a trip with the owner, who lives next door. A big handmade sign is placed by one of the makeshift doghouses, marked with a phone number. Occasionally —usually very early in the morning before a decent hour — one of the dogs will start howling. I imagine it’s the same one every night, passive and restless. She riles up the others to the point where they are all complaining loudly, demanding action. It’s a melancholy sound.

"This is ridiculous," she yowls. "We’re just sitting here, doing nothing!"

Meanwhile the icebergs keeps on coming. Soon, the sun will be up around the clock. For now at least there’s still a few hours of darkness.

We leave Ilulissat today, and I am still processing it all. I’m glad we got a chance to see it.


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