Occasionally my weirdness can’t be contained to those who know me and I branch off into writing to complete strangers. Happily, Sula, my closest friend is keen to deliver my nonsense to the people that she works with in the Arctic for three months out of the year. Theoretically these letters were meant to comfort her crew members and remind them that the South and civilization is actually not all that, whether or not they accomplished their goal is another thing. Here are a couple bits of correspondence that I penned to Sula’s crew. To celebrate the middle of the season, they open my writing and read it aloud to one another.
You’re like a horse that’s coming back to the barn right now. Is that the correct phrase? I think what I meant to say was that you’re on the homestretch, so you are going faster, or time is going faster, or you’re eating hay. Wait, that came out wrong, I’m sorry. I might need to review my sayings. Regardless, it’s like in a marathon when you pass the halfway mark and start speeding towards the finish line.
I’m here to tell you to slow down, the South, it isn’t all that. For starters people have all these unrealistic expectations, like one should wash more than once a week. Up in the Arctic you’re like a fresh-faced, rock star of hygiene if you rub a wet cloth over one or two parts. And smelling good isn’t ever a requirement. Can we both just agree that this particular aspect is awesome? With all the showering I have to do down here, I feel like I’m never dry. Also nobody congratulates me for washing my underarms. So take a moment, stop and smell the mild body odor, you should enjoy the unwashed benefits while you can.
With warmth and just a touch of greasiness,
The person who inexplicably has trouble making friends- they always seem to move away from me when I get close to them.
Apparently after Mara read this letter aloud to the crew, Luke one of the other crew members said “Unwashed is so right,” It would seem that I am not the only person who feels society’s cleanliness expectations are excessive.
When Sula gets home, she regales everyone with tales of the tundra. While it all sounds exciting and heroic, I know in my heart that I have never been and never will be that tough. I won’t even take my seat belt off in a car, let alone remove it on a tiny twin otter airplane the way that Sula’s crew does only to then throw their own sense of safety to the wind as they make a human seat belt for the equipment bouncing about in the small aircraft.
I get it; home and the feel of those freshly laundered garments are so close, that you can almost smell the faint scent of “Dewy Rain” on your shorts. But before you get too excited about indoor plumbing and cell phone reception, let’s take a second to appreciate the wilderness street cred you’re building here.
Every minute you spend roaming the tundra, is a minute more of life experience that you have to lord over your friends and family. Or maybe you are a nice person and don’t do that- I’m not, I ran marathons for a decade for the simple reason of bragging rights. When you stroll into any party after this you can be all like “What did you do this summer? Costa Rica? Oh how exciting, I just went to the Arctic and kept myself alive on the frozen tundra through a combination of my wit and determination, but you had to sleep under a mosquito net- that sounds exotic.”
Or at least that’s what I would do, if I was brave enough to live in a remote camp, each chilly step of the day would be adding to my tome of “Why I am Awesome and was Possibly Partially Raised By Polar Bears.”
Someone who once cried because their feet were cold on an overnight back packing trip.
One of Sula’s crew members was a giant. Like Hagrid but only skinnier. Please note, I am only exaggerating slightly.
After having seen a photo of the crew’s lodgings with each bunk bed jammed right up next to the following one, like some sort of sleepy game of human Tetris, I pitied Robby and imagined trying to sleep an entire three months in the frigid cold packed up like a folding chair. However, there are some benefits to being the largest human around, so I chose to focus on those in his letter.
I know this is exactly what you wanted this morning- a letter from a random lady who has no clue about what it’s like to live in the Arctic. I’m here to tell you Robby, that it’s ok. I totally understand what you’re going though. Well actually not, I’m super short, not so short that I receive sweet, sweet government compensation for my lack of height but short enough that my feet never touch the ground and every shelf is the high shelf. So really our worlds could not be more different.
Getting back to the heart of the matter, the end is in sight, I know, and while it would be nice to be back in civilization, where else in the world would you be king of the smaller people. Here in the Arctic you’re the tallest man around, you alone decide who eats dessert if the cookies are stored on the top shelf. That’s a kind of privilege that should be valued and revered. So yes, home has washing machines and socks that haven’t been worn every other day for six weeks, however it also has NBA players. As long as you are in the Arctic Robby, you are the tallest thing going, because I heard that even the shrubs are bowing to your height up there.
The woman who needs an adult booster seat in order to safely drive a car.