Monday, July 31

Place to go: Mount Aniakchak

With a diameter of 10 kilometre, Mount Aniakchak is one of the biggest caldera's in the Aleutian Range of Alaska. The area around Aniakchak is the least visited national park in the United States, only accesible by plane or boat. In 1930, geologist and Jesuit priest Bernard Hubbard visited the Aniakchak caldera by plane. He described and photographed the area extensively and called it Paradise Found. In 1931 Aniakchak erupted. Shortly after that Father Hubbard returned, this time by hiking 30 miles from the base camp at Kujulik Bay. Aniakchak was nothing like he remembered.

"Black were its snowfields and black its glaciered head... Climbing to the crater rim,we were going through a valley of death in which not a blade of grass or a flower or abunch of moss broke through the thick covering of deposited ash. Black cinders clinkedunder our feet and slid away. It was like walking on wheat in a huge bin, and equally difficult." At the rim, they "were to see Paradise Lost after having lived in Paradise Found the previous year." "There was the new Aniakchak, but it was the abomination of desolation, it was the prelude of hell. Black walls, black floor, black water, deep black holes and black vents; it fairly agonized the eye to look at it." Dust whirlwinds danced like mad ghosts, and deadly gases and smoke created a "vision of hell in Aniakchak." They climbed to the new subcrater's steaming rim: "We stood awe stricken on the edge, looking, like Dantes, into a real inferno."

Nowadays mosses, grasses, and more complex flowering plants have invaded sheltered spots. Brown bear and caribou have returned. Spawning runs of sockeye salmon fight their way up the Aniakchak River and into Surprise Lake, the river's shallow headwater lake inside the caldera. Paradise returns.

Saturday, July 29

Tuesday, July 25

The bright side

Events in our lives seem to be able to turn out in three ways; as expected, unexpectedly good, or very badly. Often things go as expected, and to some extent we are able to influence the result. But sometimes things just refuse to go as planned.

Last schoolyear I've worked hard to pass my final exams. Fairly hard. I knew I was supposed to be capable of doing it, but that never takes away the doubt. Results can always be worse than expected. But they didn't, not for me. My exams turned out to be unexpectedly good and I passed them. A good friend of mine didn't. We always used to talk about it - how we would feel if we wouldn't pass our exams. How devastating that would be. Losing a year would be bad, but the feeling itself would be worse. Failure, nibbling on our thoughts. I knew how she must have felt when she heard the bad news, and I felt guilty for being happy too because I did make it. I had devoted six years of my life to one goal, and I now I had finally reached it. But the truth is, my friend deserves it more. She worked harder and longer for it than I ever did.

I should have known - you're strong. After some time had passed, you saw the positive aspects that I would never have noticed. You show me that every dark cloud has a silver lining, if we can just find the courage to look for it. I respect you deeply for having that courage, and I want to thank you for inspiring me and showing me how to be strong. You don't let it get to you. You just take a deep breath and you move on.

Saturday, July 22

In the water

The yellow glasses tinted her world in warm colours, as if it was a dreamy commercial. But the water was blue. She breathed out until she felt the tiles, underneath her shoulders, against her heels and head. A curtain of bubbles hurried back up. The swimming pool enfolded her, embraced her tightly. Blue clear water which felt both warm and cold. Now she could barely feel it at all. Only when moving she could feel the coolness and the immense weight. Tiny bubbles of air clinged to her hair, around her lips and between her fingers. Kissing the soft skin that did not seem to resist its new environment. Above, the ripples broke the sun into hundreds of rays, which reminded her of a heavenly gate opening. A path of light going up. It almost seemed as if she could lay here forever, on the bottom of this quiet pool. Beneath 1.40 metres of water absorbing her completely. She smiled. Man using simple resources - living a temporary life under water.

Thursday, July 13

Absence

I will not be able to post anything on Silence blog in the upcoming week, since I will be leaving for a one week vacation tomorrow.

To eat: A home-made cake which is in the oven right now - it doesn't look to good though.
To read: Brain Story by Susan Greenfield, Einstein for Beginners by Michael MacGuinness, and Carl Zimmers lovely book Evolution: Triumph of an Idea - which does include a very annoying introduction by scientist Stephen Jay Gould. But that might just be my opinion because I've read a book of somebody totally not agreeing with the opinions of the late Gould.
To listen: I'm hoping Frank Sinatra, but he is always in desperate need of a cd-player.
To feel: A gentle breeze coming directly from the tabletop fan.
To wear: Comfortable clothes, a set of fresh new lenses (I barely managed to find an optician who had them in stock today), possibly a camouflage-green bikini.
To do: Visiting places, collecting sand and shells, yoga, observing the starry nightsky, sleeping for unnatural long periods of time.



Wednesday, July 12

Place to go: Acasta

In the Northwest Territories of Canada flows the Acasta River through a remote and watery area. Only accessible by seaplane or canoe (an expedition of several days) lies an island in the middle of the river. Its banks are covered by pine trees, moss, heath and fungus. A wall of barren rocks rises up from the water - granite, a common and widely-occurring type of igneous rock. These rocks look normal in every way, but they are not. With an age of more than 4 billion years, these are the oldest rocks we know to exist on this planet - as old as life itself. It's almost impossible to imagine the enormous span of time these boulders have survived; 20 000 times longer than the time that has past since the dawn of Homo Sapiens. If these rocks were formed a year ago, modern mankind would have evolved less than half an hour ago. The first signs of civilization showed 43 seconds ago, and until the last 1/135 part of this second nobody had a clue that continents might actually been moving - destroying virtually all ancient rock material in the process. As far as we know, the Acasta rocks are the last survivors of a lost era in which the fundaments of life were laid. How wonderful and symbolic it would be to travel to this geological place of pilgrimage, touching the rocks and knowing we are the only species on this planet that are able to realize their meaning and importance.

Monday, July 10

The fear of not knowing

My cat Tommy was feeling fine this morning. But an hour ago we found him in the backyard - barely standing, with a strange look in his eyes. He could hardly sit down or walk. I called the vet, who told me Tommy could be examined in about 40 minutes. For half an hour I've been sitting on the floor with him. I managed not to cry, but it was close. The fear of not knowing what is going on made me sick to my stomach. Finally it was time to go to the vet, and as it turned out Tommy was suffering from an acute bladder blockage. If left untreated he would have died from kidney poisoning in less than 24 hours. He probably needs to be on a diet for the rest of his life. I'm just glad he's not in pain anymore, and at least I know what's going on now. He might be a cat, but he's my buddy too.

Thursday, July 6

Means of transportation

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!

- Emily Dickinson



Monday, July 3

What is love?

Bas Haring is a dutch philosopher and writer, described by a Belgian magazine as "the Jamie Oliver of philosophy". Haring also hosts the philosophical television program Stof, and the subject of last night's episode was love (take a look at this post too). What is love? Haring compares this question to asking what a television is."What is ..." questions are hard to answer. Instead, people try to answer them by using the following questions;

  • How does ... work?
  • What does ... look like?
  • What is the function of ...?

It is possible to answer three questions quite accurately for various subjects - including televisions and love. The first question can be answered by explaining the mechanisms of electronics and electrons or hormones and nervous systems. The physical appearance of a tv is not hard to describe, and for love it seems reasonable to outline the behaviour that occures as a result of love. The function of both tv's and love are obvious as well (if we assume feelings are a biological necessarity). All of these questions give us information about the subject concerned. But do they answer the "What is ...?" question? This does not seem to be the case, at least not if the subject is love. What is love? Love is a feeling - intricate and known in many forms - that cannot fully be described by words. You have to feel it.