Finding Moments of Stillness
The swell lifted and dropped the bottom out of my kayak. A barrage of cold, stinging droplets pelted my face, the only area of my body exposed to the elements. I shouted at the top of my lungs to my camping buddy Andrew, trying to get his attention. I blew my whistle and kept shouting, but the wind suffocated any sound coming out of my mouth. Andrew continued on, paddling in the wrong direction.
I landed and ran to the top of a hill to get his attention.
We started in Kulusuk, a town of 240
That episode occured at the tail end of a recent kayaking trip I took with Andrew Yasso to Eastern Greenland.
We started in Kulusuk, a town of 240 and home to the gravel airstrip we flew into from Iceland. From there, we kayaked roughly 50 miles to the Tasiilaq Fjord, the terminus of the Ammassalik Fjord system in Eastern Greenland, where we basecamped for 8 days.
For transportation, we paddled two Oru Coast+ Kayaks loaded to the max with climbing gear, food, camping equipment—and 12-gauge shotguns, our only defense against polar bears, the truly terrifying alpha predators of the region.
Once we set up our basecamp in the Fjord, we did as much climbing and mountaineering as we could given the environment, weather, and our physical abilities; that amounted to one mountaineering summit, one scrambling summit, and a new, moderately-graded 900’ traditional alpine line on a beautiful granite feature—my first first ascent. Then, on our way back to where we started out, the storm came.
We departed basecamp at first light, around 6am; the first half of our journey was uncharacteristically calm. There was no wind. No precipitation. No movement at all, except for our two kayaks gliding gracefully across the mirror’s surface.
I could have remained there for hours on end, lost in the dream
Guarding our exit from the Tasiilaq Fjord was a massive pyramidal iceberg that seemingly spanned the entire way—demanding our attention and admiration.
Captivated, I sat there in my kayak, soaking in the scene’s serenity as time slipped away. Seconds turned to minutes; minutes passed by—I could have remained there for hours on end, lost in the dream.
Calve | kav | verb
(of a mass of ice) to split off of an iceberg or glacier
Meltwater trickling down; subtle crackling the only sounds. I drifted listlessly, captured by the current; tugged gently by the calved-off glacier’s gravitational pull. My hands could almost reach out and touch it; that’s when I snapped out of the daze—I had drifted dangerously close to the mass of ice; a falling chunk could have sent out a small tidal wave that would undoubtedly capsize my boat. Reluctantly, I paddled on; soon after that’s when the storm hit—the most volatile we’d seen since arriving in Eastern Greenland.
That’s kind of how life goes though. One minute we’re sitting there, trapped in a daze, the next it’s absolute chaos and we get lost in the fray. Rarely will we be able to control the storm—that’s not how life, or nature, works—but we can always control our reactions to it. Will we sit there, fighting the current while taking on water? Or will we steel ourselves, find the flow, and paddle harder?
How we conduct ourselves during the storm is certainly important, but far too often we (myself included) forget to lose ourselves in moments of stillness; it’s those periods of calm that allow opportunities for self-reflection—providing perspective on why we continue to brave the storm in the first place.
Those moments of stillness can be had simply by allowing yourself to disconnect; they’re best facilitated in nature: away from the dings, vibrations, and red flags popping up on the screen. They’re out there—always waiting. We just have to make time for them.
Photo 4 by Andrew Yasso. All other photos by Chris Brinlee Jr.