Australian Antarctic Program Parntnership
Seven stories above my basement bedroom, at the very top of the ship, is a small light-splattered room known to the crew as Monkey Island. In the morning I like to sit here, calibrate my eyes against the position of the rising sun, and let them wander in the direction of home. Or at least the diaspora of places that have earned such high distinction. Due north is Hobart, the tacky Australian crown atop the Southern Ocean that I’ve been learning to love since moving down in March. Next, nearly northwest, is the rough direction of 518 P Street, where I sat in my Washington DC apartment last year and heard the late, great David Berman for the first time. I quickly flip through the unreasonably massive Spotify catalogue I’d downloaded before we embarked and queue up some of his fitting, final words.
Our houses dream in blueprintsDavid Berman
Our houses dream so hard
Outside you can see my footprints
I’ve been dreaming in your yard.
Further north still is 262 Hampshire Street, or nearly the exact other side of the earth, where I once cut the long Boston winter with the same virtual fireplace sequence that is now on loop across the ship, crackling so convincingly that we really believe we can feel its warmth on our cheeks. Then, shifting a little south I hone in on San Diego, from where just yesterday my mother called to wish me what sounded, almost, like Merry Christmas, dissected through our modest bandwidth and chopped back up across the static pulse of Zoom.
And when I’m done with that I look around, over an improbable sea towards a hazy horizon and watch the albatross. If it’s windy, and it usually is, they look like fighter pilots on sabbatical, allowed finally to fly for fun. They rip joyfully through the cavernous trenches sunk beneath the waves and launch out like supernovas, made entirely of silk. Their unlikely grace seems to scale with the chaos around them. The more it howls, the more it spits, the more they dance. It makes me wonder where they sleep; we couldn’t be farther from land if we tried.
Behind me, the sun splits the lattice of ladders and instruments on the back deck and sketches a Rorschach test on the teak wood between the windowpanes. It reminds of the future, years down the line, when I suspect I’ll look south, think about the bottom bunk in cabin 0102, slip a gentle smile and remember when my home was surrounded by the sea.