In a fit of insomnia last night, I spent the wee hours of the morning curled up under a blanket on the couch, while a fierce winter wind raged outside the house, and whistled down the chimney. It seemed a good time to dive into Kathleen Winter’s book Boundless. My first reaction to her book is a wee bit of envy, because her writing is so good. I don’t think I would be brave enough to think that a boat trip through the Northwest Passage (a trip anyone can do, as long as you can plunk down the cash) would be material enough for a book, although of course I understand that a good writer can make anything interesting. It is in fact not the experience that makes good writing, but the interpretation of that experience. And what makes this book work is how the author links her personal experiences of past travels to new lands back to the experience of the moment. As well, her thoughtful reflections of the trip, her fellow travelers, the experiences she has along the way, and most especially her reaction to the land itself endear her to me. I feel like I’ve spent quite a bit of time on this blog trying to describe the special qualities of this northern landscape, especially the light, which is unlike any other light I’ve known. But I don’t think I’ve said it as well as Kathleen Winter does. And I know from her writing that she is experiencing exactly what I have felt about this land too. She first experiences the Northwest Passage in the area of Pond Inlet, the wondrous place where we went kayaking this past summer. Here is what she had to say:
The colours burned cold and intense – that turquoise Arctic water, the snow, ice, and purple mountains – and I felt the complete presence of a terrain that knows an absence of the markers that signify ‘business as usual’ in the south. Light did not contain itself within southern boundaries, but sank into the water and land and made them glow. Light pulsed in and out of rock, ice, and water, illumining strange crevices. This illumination entered my mind and cast light on thoughts hiding in shadows, and entered my body too, the same energy imbuing the land. My whole being became ignited in a hybrid world between thought and material process…Each breath was a cold shock and the land was magnetic, like an encounter with someone who truely sees you.
This land is a body, and I am beginning to think that is has something like speech.
In an online interview, she also said: “The light was really important. I just had a feeling from that all-night twilight, that sort of permanent glow, that this place is holding light – and enlightenment and wisdom – for the rest of the planet.”
I am blessed to have had a few years of listening to this land, of hearing its speech, of feeling its energy entering my body, of waking to its illumination in my mind. I have come here and I have been changed.