I came here for the books. I came to browse the shelves in all the converted farm buildings and boatsheds lining the settlement’s single street between guesthouse and ferry quay. I came to glance up occasionally from whichever novel I happened to be reading to savour the sight of milky-blue fjord and mountains muffled in snow. The only other activity I craved was the eating of sognekake, thick wedges of buttered pancake, to sustain me through my book-buying sprees. And the only other excitement I needed was from the contents of the crime fiction in the tiny Tourist Information Centre which, like almost every other business in Fjaerland, serves as a bookshop too.
Yet here I am, quivering on the tip of the tongue of a glacier, crampons laced to my boots, helmet perched on my head, ice axe gripped in my gloved hand and a grinning Norwegian guide roped to my waist.
The mountain’s bared its teeth, revealing giant white incisors. Crevasses, and my confidence, creak.
Somewhere, high above, is the wide smooth plateau where I’ll pause to gulp down the view and a flask of hot tea.
Slowly, gingerly, I dig the toe of my right boot into the first foothold carved in the glacier’s surface.
learning to read
histories of fissures
narratives of ice
Reprinted from British Haibun Society Haibun Anthology, 2009.