The Final Countdown

Mount Discovery and the Ross Ice Shelf, 1908 hours local time, 19 September 2011, as seen from the porch of my dorm. Air temp: minus 13F. Wind Chill: minus 49 F.

A mere 20 days from today, barring any weather delays, I will be leaving Antarctica. I’m sad about that, as anyone who’s read more than a post or two of this blog can imagine.

But this morning is not the time to dwell on how I’ll miss the scale of this place, its beautiful emptiness and austere magnificence, its zany moments of “did that just happen? Did I really just see that?”

Because this morning marks another milestone. I’ve been here for 400 days. That is a long time for anyone, especially a wanderer like me.  And for about the past week, I’ve had the overwhelming feeling that it’s time to go.

It’s not a GET ME ON THE PLANE! kind of mania (well, I have moments of that, too, usually when one of the bossy Fleet Ops guys comes in and demands a case of popcorn even though his department hasn’t filed the paperwork or even made the request, we’ve told him he has to do so and then come in during day hours to pick it up, not midnight, and the night cook and I have better things to do than go hunting down his damn popcorn. The second time he showed and got all aggressive about it I told him “Shackleton’s men didn’t bitch about not having popcorn. Suck it up.” Emails were sent but my boss told me he supported my refusal to drop everything and search for his stupid popcorn, which isn’t even handled by the galley staff… My boss also added that he particularly liked the Shackleton comment and that he was giving me the “right to sass” in such a circumstance. Dude, I have had a license to sass since before I could talk. I have been a card-carrying member of the Smart Ass Sassy Pants club for decades).

The feeling I have is  more muted. The only thing I can compare it with would be how I felt the morning I realized I had to take my dog Kosmo to the vet to end his suffering. I didn’t want to, even though I knew it was the right thing to do, and all the while I was thinking about what a great dog he was and how many wonderful adventures we’d had together. But it was time.

And now it’s time to leave here.

But don’t think I’m all gloomy about it (why do people always seem to think I’m gloomy?). Unlike with Kosmo’s loss, mingled with what I call “pre-grieving” is a giddyness about what awaits me. A few days ago on Facebook I started a countdown. Since some of my most regular readers are not on Facebook (ahem, The Queen and Unpaid Bill), I decided to continue it here, reprinting the bits I’ve already posted on FB.

I’m doing this because I think it’s funny, and because you might read it and gain a new perspective on the most mundane acts of daily life in the real world.

Originally posted on Facebook:

17 Sept: 23 days until I am escorted by security from the Northlands Countdown supermarket after rolling in the grapes and running up and down the produce aisles barefoot throwing fresh herbs in the air and screaming “PRETTY PRETTY COLORS!”
18 Sept: 22 days until I creep out a dogwalking Kiwi by asking “Can I pet your dog?” and then proceeding to do so, mumbling “yessss, preciousssss, we wantssss it, we neeeeeedssss it…”
19 Sept: 21 days till I get to wear shoes. Real shoes. Outside.

And continuing the countdown:

20 September: 20 days until real milk. (We have only the powdered stuff down here.)

Stay tuned… the saga continues.



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