Ice Friday: Joe Simpson Touches the Void

Joe Simpson’s memoir of survival, Touching the Void, focuses on the battle within:

I had never been so entirely alone, and although this alarmed me it also gave me strength. And excited tingle ran down my spine. I was committed. The game had taken over, and I could no longer choose to walk away from it. IMG_4858It was as if there were two minds with me arguing the toss. The voice was clean and sharp and commanding. It was always right, and I listened to it when it spoke and acted on its decisions. The other mind rambled out a disconnected series of images, and memories and hopes, which I attended to in a daydream state as I set about obeying the orders of the voice. I had to get to the glacier. I would crawl on the glacier, but I didn’t think that far ahead. If my perspectives had sharpened, so too had they narrowed, until I thought only in terms of achieving predetermined aims and no further. 20150717_140907Reaching the glacier was my aim. The voice told me exactly how to go about it, and I obeyed while my other mind jumped abstractly from one idea to another.

Sanibel Writing Conference Exercises Two

Another early start to the day at the Sanibel Writing Conferencemore time for writing exercises with John Dufresne.IMAG3705Writing Exercise 1: List of Frail Things (Derived from The Pillowbook of Sei Shonagon

Old people, children, stained glass window, eyes, bones, atmosphere, ice, wings, egos, sleep, understanding, eggs, music.

IMAG3708Writing Exercise 2: Start a piece with “It was a dark and stormy night”:

It was a dark and stormy night, just the beginning. I was glad for it. We wouldn’t have to leave. We wouldn’t have to do anything but watch the windows buffet, the rain tear sideways at the tops of the trees and police car driving slowly around.

“What time is it?”  Valerie looked tiny in the door.

“What does it matter?”

IMAG3689Writing Exercise 3. “Everything is broken”

“Everything is broken.”

She stepped onto the cement ledge and pulled out her Sponge Bob alarm clock. “Not everything.”

“Ruined.” I stared out, the trees hanging low over the lone sloped-down wall, the window twisted down, looking at the ground.

She grabbed onto a board and climbed onto the pile.

It came over in a nauseous wave, suddenly up from her stomach and lungs. I was going to throw up. “Get down from there!” 

IMAG3702Writing Exercise 4. Getting a terrible diagnosis:

She waited on the line. Steely Dan. That’s who it was; she had never liked that song.



“It’s what we were afraid of.”

She pressed her finger against the table, watched it go white and flat. She wondered how far back she could get it. The bone wouldn’t break. “Is there a treatment?”

“Bring him in the morning.”

“Thank you.” She didn’t remember hanging up or sitting, but she had his head in her lap and stroked his neck and shoulder. She hated how vulnerable he made himself. She squeezed him harder than she wanted. He looked up at that.


Unplugged in Greenland

I was in the cold and bright of the far north over the past two weeks; instead of computer and ipod, I was consumed by constant daylight and the sound of ice collapsing into the sea.

Ilulissat, Greenland

Afternoon in Ilulissat, Greenland

It took time to accept that my electronic feed was gone and there was nothing else but the cold world all around.

Midnight at Ilulissat, Greenland

Night in Ilulissat, Greenland