Written and posted on 11/21/18.
Reflecting on this day, I realized that it was void of wildlife sightings. The starkness of the Arctic was on full display in the most visceral way. We were heading north, making a landing on Phippsøya Island on the Sjuoyane archipelago, the northern most set of islands in Svalbard. It lightly snowed for much of the day as we headed out towards open sea. At 3:02pm, while sitting in a lecture on Svalbard with naturalist Carl Erik, we crossed the 81 parallel north.
It was cold on deck, but the ice had a green hue and the quality and quantity of ice was changing. I headed inside for a special dinner in the Chart Room with Susan Goldberg, Editor In Chief of National Geographic Magazine, her husband Geoff, my teacher travel mate, and other guests. It was a true honor and absolute delight to meet such extraordinary people. It was an intimate dinner with conversation that made my heart beat with hope, positivity, and possibility about humanity. I especially loved hearing the story of when Susan and Geoff met up with Paul Salopek on his epic Out of Eden walk.
Geoff and I had our iPhones out, watching the altimeter as we sailed towards 82 degrees. Around 9:40pm - as we were finishing dessert - an announcement was made that we were at 82 degrees and almost to our northernmost point on this expedition. We headed to get jackets and pictures and met on deck where I took out my SVA flag for a photo to mark this pretty extraordinary occasion. That day, my students - past, present, and future - we were with me in the Arctic. If it weren't for them, I would not have this teacher-life, having had a pretty extraordinary 20-year career (so far.)
I stayed up and out on the deck - with intermittent reprieve on the bridge or the library to warm up - being fully awake, present, and grateful. I finally headed down to our cabin after 2am, tired by not too sleepy, my head and heart so full of wonder.
This is what I saw looking out our port hole a little after 2am, technically on 5.22.18.
As a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow, I traveled to Svalbard in May 2018! Thanks to Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic for supporting teachers and encouraging us to be explorers.
Some of the text shared here was written in my journal or through social media posts while I was on expedition.
But much of the writing shared here was written in the months following my return home.
I had this idea that I would embark on my journey and, in real time, reflect and write and create blog posts and videos and online albums and photo books and postcards. I had fantasies of sitting in the ship's library with my pen and notebook, collecting and composing what I'd seen and experienced and manifesting deep, profound thoughts.
Yeah. That didn't happen.
My experience was so intense, so surreal, that I had difficulty finding adequate words to describe it all. Silly, inconsequential, and unsatisfying words were all I had - great, amazing, unbelievable, incredible. At the end of each day I would try. After dinner, somewhere between 10pm and midnight, I'd make my way up to the library to write. But I would get distracted. The large, glorious, gorgeous windows were too inviting and each moment was unique. The clouds were shifting, the water was moving, the ship was in motion, the ice upon the water was drifting. Each and every moment was unique.
My eyes were up and wide open. I was outside on the deck feeling the cold air and the lightly falling snow on my face. Or I was sitting on the bridge, snuggled in warmth, with a pair of binoculars looking looking looking. Oh, I tried to shift my thinking to writing something more than a bulleted list, but I just couldn't pull it off.
To put it simply, I couldn't focus.
I coined my condition Wonder-Induced ADD.
It is a beautiful affliction to have.
This blog is dedicated to my aunt, Tina Chavez, who is always my biggest fan and supporter. When I told her about my expedition to the Arctic, she asked, "So, when do you go on the Polar Bear Express?"
She also told me to run fast from the polar bears, but naming this blog "Run, Jen, Run!" isn't as charming as calling it "The Polar Bear Express."