Friday, February 8, 2013

The Foot of the World

photo credit
A few years ago my dad took a trip to Antarctica to climb Mount Vinson. When he returned he wore the usual climber's raccoon eyed sunburn on his face, he appeared thirty pounds lighter, and he acted a little subdued, as if the trip back to civilization had taken it out of him even more than the climb. How was your trip? We all asked him, but as he told us about it I realized that little question was much like asking a woman What was it like to give birth? There are some experiences that are difficult to put into words.

There are a few details about my dad's Antarctica trip that remain vivid; the terror of an airplane ride in a windowless, tin can of an airplane that was being buffeted by the high winds of the south pole. The unsettling feeling that my dad and all the climbers felt after the airplane abandoned them on the ice. Weather conditions must be optimum for airplanes to make the crossing and so you're never exactly sure when the plane will return. But the image that has stuck with me longest was my dad's description of one afternoon when he was feeling homesick. It is one thing to be homesick when you're a long drive or Southwest plane ride away from your loved ones. It is a whole different matter to be homesick when you are among strangers, sitting on a pile of ice at the foot of the world.

My dad explained how that particular afternoon he had sat down to "eat." Everything, everything is frozen because of the severe temperatures and so his meal for the afternoon was a piece of frozen sandwich meat. So there he sat in the snow, gnawing on a ham Popsicle while staring at a horizon that only a small percentage of the world will ever witness. Suddenly my dad became so homesick, so completely out of his normal element in every respect, that it brought tears to his eyes. I'm paraphrasing here, but essentially he "sat on the ice and wept for his family and the comforts of a life that were in every way unreachable."

I think homesickness is one of the strangest emotions for an adult to experience. I moved around a lot in my late teens and early twenties, to different countries and between my divorced parents' homes, and so by the time I was twenty-two years old I didn't really suffer from "homesickness" anymore. I had learned to jump into whatever life I was living with both feet. Make friends. Put down roots. Try and create a daily grind that matters and feels good to live in. But every now and then I experience that strange wave of something. A desire to go home... although it's been years since my parents' homes have felt like "home." Maybe that feeling means I need to plan a road trip to visit more family members. Or maybe I'm still adjusting to life with four kids and therefore don't feel completely at home in my own skin yet.

But whatever the reason, I kind of like it when these freak waves of homesickness hit me. It is strangely satisfying to long for something you didn't know you needed. Or to remember that there is some abstract element missing in your life that will make it all the more merrier once it's returned to you. It's kind of like waiting for spring to appear. You don't quite know what it is about spring that gives so much satisfaction, but you'll know it when you see it.


  1. I think you are home sick for us and us for you! We love you. One day we may live in the same country again, roll on I say. Until then I understand. Karen. X

  2. Thanks for saying that! Made my morning:)


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