What is a person called who’s happiest when it’s cold and dark and wet outside and warm and cozy inside? A Northerner? An Icicle-Lover? The Abominable Snow-Shrew? Whatever the name, that person is who I am. You see why keeping up my spirits in a hot dry oh-so-sunny climate, where every building interior is maximally refrigerated,is something of a challenge.

It is 12:40am here at the Gardermoen Bed and Breakfast. Two hours since my last post. Two hours of deep sleep. I feel wonderful. What to do with the likely hour or two before my next sleep? Wander through some travel thoughts perhaps. So where does an introverted pluviophile (lover of rain) with chionophiliac (lover of cold/snow) tendencies who is also infatuated with the concept of hygge go for happiness and fulfillment? Svalbard would be my guess. Especially to a cozy wooden ship sailing the chill summer fiords. So it’s light for 24 hours a day instead of dark but it will be in the 40s and it might rain. And that ship’s interior looks cozy-enough for even the most hygge-crazed Dane or, in my case Norwegian.

I’ve read much over the years about the northlands, recently focusing on Svalbard. I imagine it to be Greenland through a Norwegian lens. There’s a most engrossing book (especially if you’re a Chionophile) called The Ice Museum: In Search of the Lost Land of Thule by Joanna Kavenna.

Joanna Kavenna went north in search of the Atlantis of the Arctic, the mythical land of Thule. Seen once by an Ancient Greek explorer and never found again, mysterious Thule came to represent the vast and empty spaces of the north. Fascinated for many years by Arctic places, Kavenna decided to travel through the lands that have been called Thule, from Shetland to Iceland, Norway, Estonia, and Greenland.On her journey, she found traces of earlier writers and travellers, all compelled by the idea of a land called Thule: Richard Francis Burton, William Morris, Anthony Trollope, as well as the Norwegian Polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen. She met wilderness-lovers; poets writing epics about ice; Inuit musicians and Polar scientists trying to understand the silent snows. But she came to discover that a darkness also inhabits Thule…(from book promo)

Opening the book’s section on Svalbard titled “Prophets,” Kavenna includes a Longfellow poem:

With favoring winds, o’er sunlit seas,

We sailed for the Hesperides,

The land where golden apples grow;

But that, Ah! That was long ago.

How far, since then, the ocean streams

Have swept us from the land of dreams,

That land of fiction and of truth,

The lost Atlantis of our youth!…

Ultima Thule. Utmost Isle!

Here in thy harbors for a while

We lower our sails; a while we rest

From the Unending, endless quest

Am I searching for Ultima Thule? Nothing quite so grand I imagine. Kavenna has written an exceptional book of history, literature, geography and adventure. I highly recommend it for anyone heading to the ‘real north.’ Growing up in Minnesota might make my northern quest a natural development—Kavenna’s done what I would dream of doing if only I were a hundred or so years younger.

I’ll come back to The Ice Museum on days when I run out of fiord photos.  Now I’m sleepy…a chapter with the Minnesota Dylan and I’ll surely doze off… Yes, ‘n’ how many years can a mountain exist/Before it’s washed to the sea?


One Comment on “ULTIMA THULE

  1. the North lands make you wax poetic. Snow and cold and winters are not my forte…well, perhaps a winter of two months at most followed by a warm and sweet spring, short summer and long long Fall…I love Fall…golden colors all around…the sun…the leaves…the golden warmth of the afternoon after an almost cold morning. The middle temps for me…not the cold and wet..no no. But you are a north person. I miss the New Mexican sun and climate. Lost Land of Thule….Lost Land of Enchantment.

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