Alaska Map Arctic Circle

We are shown some pictures of the Arctic regions through which we will have to travel and told that there could be no guarantees we would arrive in time to meet up with Andy or even eventually reach the North Pole. But we just might make it! I am completely fired up by what I’ve just heard and the magnificence of the idea and it really seems, despite the many problems that are likely to occur, something not to be missed. The writer Ursula Le Guin summed up the essence of all travel with her words, ‘It is good to have an end to journey toward but it is the journey that matters, in the end.’

‘Who would like to go?’ About twenty of the Patrons provisionally volunteer and, even though at that moment I’m not certain if I can make the time, I am the first among them. Previously I had read avidly about the early explorers and their expeditions to the polar regions but had never really imagined I would ever have the chance to travel there myself. Now that I could, I must.

Alaska Map Arctic Circle Photo Gallery

The group quickly splits into two, those who plan to go and those who don’t, the latter mostly drift away. Goldsworthy will travel out in mid-March and base himself in the high Arctic island of Ellesmere, in the community of Grise Fiord. There he will create his first Arctic sculptures. He will be joined a few weeks later by the photojournalist Julian Calder who will document the expedition. Then, if the weather conditions permit, the plan is for Goldsworthy and Calder to travel to the North Pole on 20 April to establish a camp for four days, allowing Andy to sculpt his final polar work of art there. We will set out some weeks after him, travelling through the Arctic, staying in the same places that Andy has previously stayed in and hopefully joining up with him at the North Pole on 24 April.

The aim is for us to arrive on his very last day in order to witness the work he has created and to become a living part of this glorious art experience.

Andy’s own philosophy is expressed in a poetic and Zen-like way in the few simplistic words: ‘I want to follow North to its source, to try to come to terms with it, in the same way I work with a leaf under the tree from which it fell.’ There is a direct correlation between the way Goldsworthy works and haiku, the very short form of poetry that is said to ‘catch life as it flows’. It has been described as the final flower of all Eastern culture (Dr R. H. Blyth). Haiku is not Zen but Zen may be haiku in its most minimalist form. The Zen poet Buson was a past master at exploring and capturing one exquisite moment, ‘The butterfly resting upon the temple bell; Asleep.’ No wonder the Japanese find Goldsworthy’s work so inspirational.

Those of us who have put our names down start meeting over the next few weeks, learning about the logistics and costs of travelling to the Arctic; there are no easy options. It is going to be expensive and arduous. However, the more obstacles that are raised the more determined I become to see it through, no matter what. If the others are going I will also. Then strange things start to occur; odd accidents, family and business complications, unmissable engagements that prevent most of the others from continuing. One by one they drop out. It is very worrying particularly as we learn more about the dangers of travelling to that remote and frozen region. Various fears and concerns are expressed more openly by friends and colleagues. There is also the real possibility that even after going all that way we will be prevented, for one reason or another, from finally standing at the Pole. Perhaps I am taking on more than I can cope with! But I can’t pass up such a terrific opportunity. When would it occur again? I must commit and continue. It is definitely a Zen moment in time.

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