Cactus Trapped In Ice, thoughts on Barry Lopez’ “Arctic Dreams”

Our cactus garden.

Last winter I savored a book called?Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez.?I read a few pages each night, shivering under my covers no matter the heat of our furnace.

Today the DC region has come to a halt under a blanket of snow. Yesterday I took this picture of our prickly pear cactus, which is trapped in ice.

Of course, “trapped in ice” is hyperbole. If you want real ice-entrapment, read this brief passage from Lopez’ book, which describes a whaling ship trapped in the arctic ice. The experience of the captain in trying to free his vessel is captivating.

“In May 1814, with his whaling ship beset off the coast of Greenland, William Scoresby set out on foot to reconnoiter the final mile of maneuvering that he hoped would set him free. Like many men caught in such circumstances, Scoresby was terrified. But he was mesmerized as well by the ice, by its sheer power, its daunting scale, the inexorability of its movement. The sound of its constant adjustment before the wind was like ‘complicated machinery, or distant thunder,’ he wrote. Even as he sought a way out, he marveled at the way it distracted him. He lost the sense of plight that spurred him, the pleading whining that came from his ship’s pinched hull; he became a mere ‘careless spectator.’ It was as though he were walking over the back of some enormous and methodical beast.”

~ from Arctic Dreams, by Barry Lopez, p. 214.


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