I must admit that I have a hard time getting my head around the fact that we are in the Southern Hemisphere on this planet and getting close to our southernmost destination, Antarctica. It seems we are worlds away and yet there are constant reminders of the Pacific Northwest and the coast of Maine – the islands of granite and trees, the volcanoes, and snowcapped mountains. In past years, we have sailed our own boat in the same waters that Vancouver explored (would you believe we are staying in the Vancouver Suite on our ship?) and now we’re in Magellan’s part of the world. And Penguins are popping out of the water (they fling themselves up into the air, right out of the sea) It’s quite a sight!
The Strait of Magellan separates Tierra del Fuego from the mainland of South America – it is safer passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific, avoiding Cape Horn, and until the Panama Canal was built, this was where the shipping traffic came. Punta Arenas is a thriving city that grew up around that industry and has had to adapt because of the Canal. This is the stepping off point and resupplying point for much of the Antarctic research efforts. It is from here that two men in the latter part of 2018 each made solo trips from the Weddell Sea to the South Pole and then on to the Ross Ice Shelf for pickup. They are the first in human to survive the journey on foot, unaided. This is a wild part of the planet.
All of that makes me wonder, wonder as in consider but also as in awe. I wonder about the kind of people who undertake such challenges and those who choose to live in these harsher environments. And I am in awe of them and what they accomplish in their even simple lives of making crafts and guiding pilgrims and tourists. What drives them? How do they live lives of love and light? Where is their compass? Are they simply like me, longing for what is going to make them whole?
Richard Rohr, in one of his daily reflections a couple of years ago wrote this:
“The harmonic of the universe is wholeness, not perfection; more specifically, it is wholeness that involves differentiation . . . Living wholeness is participating in the dynamism of love that gathers everything together into greater unity and consciousness. It is to live with an openness of mind and heart, to encounter others, not as strangers, but as parts of one’s self.”
Perhaps that is real power of wonder and awe – the ability to recognize that we are each part of a much larger whole, a larger planet, a larger cosmos. We are each part of the other in a myriad of ways. We are privileged to reflect on that very phenomenon and intentionally act upon it.
Today in Punta Arenas we went on a trek that started at the top of a ski hill and took us through the woods along a small creek and back to the lodge where we had hoped on the ski lift to ride to the top of the hill. From the top we could see much of the Strait of Magellan and Tierra del Fuego on the other side. It was a view that inspired wonder and appreciation for this beautiful land. Our group was small, made of mostly older folks who love to be outdoors and are curious about the birds and plants and geology in this different place on our planet. There was a real sense of appreciation for nature and the peoples who live here. Everyone expressed a real sense of deep satisfaction and many were filled with wonder for all that we saw and shared together.
I believe that we touched the harmonic of the universe and it was wonder-ful! I also believe that I don’t have to travel far to touch it, but like Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz who traveled far to find her way home, perhaps I am discovering that as well.