Out in the Cold Again: The Woods of Northern Minnesota
Foster, Charles, Contemporary Review
A couple of years ago I went on an expedition to the North Pole. We skied over the sea ice, bridged the leads and clambered over the sastrugi, and my arrogance and incompetence lost me a finger-end to frostbite. When we got to the Pole we pitched our tent, drank whisky, smoked Cuban cigars, re-told the jokes we'd told every evening and tried to think that we were significant. Snow and wind stopped the helicopter from coming to pick us up. And so for three-and-a-half days we floated on the ice; three-and-a-half days lying in my bag, urinating into a plastic jar and watching my finger turn blacker. In the fitful sleep that icy, twenty-four hour sunlight allows, I dreamt of hot forests and beach barbecues. Men aren't designed for the cold, I told myself. We evolved in hot places, and never really evolved away from them. Humans are relational animals, and there's nothing on an arctic ice floe to relate to apart from oneself. Men obsessed with the arctic are self-obsessed. Arctic exploration is pure narcissism. Cold wildernesses are sterile. In every sense they don't resonate. And when I got back to Spitsbergen I turned the heating on full and resolved never to go anywhere cold again.
I kept that resolution, switched all my attention to a remote green archipelago off the coast of Mozambique, and was thoroughly happy. My down jacket grew mouldy in a wardrobe, and I didn't care. My mummified distal phalanx, trimmed off by a surgeon, sat in a box in a desk drawer.
But the north has a way of creeping up on you. I kept being asked about wolves; an …
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Publication information: Article title: Out in the Cold Again: The Woods of Northern Minnesota. Contributors: Foster, Charles - Author. Magazine title: Contemporary Review. Volume: 286. Issue: 1673 Publication date: June 2005. Page number: 363+. © 1999 Contemporary Review Company Ltd. COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group.
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