Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Graduation In Zion


        A cry of terror escaped from every breast.  All fled to starboard.

       But suddenly the ship was totally eased.  She was carried away and floated in the air for an imperceptible moment, then leaned over, fell on the ice floes, and there she underwent a rolling motion which made her rails crack.  What was happening?

        Lifted by the rising tide, pushed on by the blocks attacking her from behind, she was crossing the uncrossable ice-pack.  After a minute – a century – of this strange navigation, she had traversed this obstacle and fell back down on an ice-field; her weight made her pass through, and soon she was back in her element.  

        “We’re past the ice-pack!” exclaimed Johnson, rushing to the front of the brig.  

        “Thank God,” replied Hatteras.

      In effect, the brig was in a basin;  ice surrounded her on all sides and although her keel was in water, she could not move; but although she remained motionless, the field was moving for her.

         “We’re drifting, captain,” cried Johnson.

         “Let it happen.”

        Ive been re-reading Jules Verne’s The Adventures of Captain Hatteras lately, so it’s probably not surprising that when I slept (and woke and slept and woke) last night, my dreaming and waking assumed the form of a ship navigating an ice-pack, continually rising and falling, being trapped and occasionally sliding free.  It’s nice finally to be awake with good morning light flowing in.  Soon, the dogs will want to go out.

        I fell asleep watching the CNN Republican candidates "debate", which was ok, but from what I saw, tending toward the predictable as entertainment fare, so sleep must have taken over early because the first time I woke up it was only just past 11 pm.

        Somewhere amid all the being trapped-in-ice sensations that Verne’s book (I know the dialogue seems creaky, but it’s really excellent and unique in my experience; it was a great favorite of Alfred Jarry’s also and contributed to his creation of Dr. Faustroll) prompted, which simply amplify other things I’ve been feeling, I also had a wonderful memory yesterday of an evening about 10 years ago when Caroline and I had drinks on a screened porch in the summer and watched a small spider construct a web for a couple of hours.  I know I’ve never seen anyone work so patiently, purposively and expertly, or convey a greater feeling of freedom.  He reminded me of those pictures of Jackson Pollock painting and of Jane silently creating one of her many art projects.


1.  Text excerpted from Jules Verne, The Adventures of Captain Hatteras (trans. William Butcher).  Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002.

2.  Top photo:  Belgica trapped in ice near Antarctica.  1899

3.  Second photo:  Gauss trapped in ice, Antarctica, March 29, 1902.  Hot-air balloon employed for aerial photography at right-hand side of photo. 

4.  All images enlarge when left-clicked.

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