Greenland is a fabulous place but it’s not what I’d call picturesque. It’s not supposed to be. It’s supposed to be raw and untamed. It’s supposed to be a challenge.
It’s like a slow, beautiful death.
Okay, I should explain that, if I can.
Greenland is about living life at the very edge of where life can be lived. Sure, modern houses in Greenland have modern amenities. But it doesn’t take much for the power to get knocked out, or a supply ship to get turned around because of ice, or a mercy flight grounded because of bad weather.
The slow is the pace of life. You simply can’t speed things up. Everything is against you. That doesn’t mean things don’t happen fast. A glacier that hasn’t calved for a day can crack off a piece of ice the size of a small village the next second. A whale can surface beside you and disappear again a second later, leaving little more than bubbles and an accelerated heart rate.
But you can’t plan for or anticipate these things. You can’t rush it. You just have to live it.
The beautiful part needs no explanation. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I met one Danish nurse who couldn’t see the beauty around her because she was locked into the long dark winter, and used all her energy to get from one day to the next until her short-term contract ended.
I had dark days, sure I did – lots of them. But then I just had to look around me and see and feel Greenland.
It was beautiful.
But then I was dying a little every day – that slow, beautiful death I mentioned. Explaining that is hard, but it’s like absorbing one massive experience after the next, seconds apart, often when turning the corner and seeing the light hit the mountain in a different way than you had seen it before. You take on these experiences, and you absorb them, but to do so requires processing them. That’s not always possible. There’s not always room. So, knowing that it’s going to take time, you also know you’re taking these experiences to the grave, and this slow time is so packed with impressions of the natural world, that you know you can’t possibly absorb it all before you die. And in knowing that, you die a little every day. Rather, you let a little piece of you die – that experience you had earlier in the month, you have to let it go, because it just got surpassed by something bigger.
Not necessarily better, just bigger.
It needs more room.
So you allow one part of you to die, to make room for a new part a new life experience.
And so the process of dying a little every day becomes a slow beautiful death.
Yeah, sure. But real.
Sometimes reviewers have wondered at the plausibility of some of the things I write about in my stories. It makes me smile. About the only thing I exaggerate are the characters, making them a little larger than life.
I don’t have to do anything to the nature or geography. Greenland has that covered! 🙂
- The first photo is a shot of the more industrial part of town with the ubiquitous shipping containers, various rusting hulks of metal, topped with big mountains in the background.
- The second photo is shot of a hunter heading towards the northeast corner of Salliaruseq Island.
- The third is a photo of a hunter going out to check his longline – you can see the plastic fishing box strapped to the sledge.
- Photo four is a hunter arriving in Uummannaq, sledging between the boats locked in the frozen harbour.
- And the last photo is Uummannaq hospital where Jane worked and I have staged a few gun battles! Because I could. 🙂
Lisa Germany says
Love this! Greenland is indeed, indescribable. A place to be experienced and lived, not just looked at. I don’t think you can truly understand until you’ve been here 🙂
Christoffer Petersen says
Hi Lisa! Yes. You know it. 🙂
Dave Bennett says
Beautiful photos . . and a beautifully poetic way of looking at your life in Greenland. very moving and reflective . . and much appreciated!
Christoffer Petersen says
Thanks, Dave. It’s a rather special place.