Chronicles of Ice - Chronicles of Ice Gretel Ehrlich

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Chronicles of Ice Gretel Ehrlich Born on a ranch near Santa Barbara, California, Gretel Ehrlich (b. 1946) studied at Bennington College and the University of California, later working as a maker of documentary films. Her last film project (1978) was on a Wyoming sheep farm, where she stayed and took up ranching as her day job, devoting the evenings to her new writing career. A great deal of Ehrlich’s work shows a reverence for nature, as is the case with the essay that follows. However, her interests are varied. Her first published work is  The Solace of Open Spaces (1984), a book of essays centered on her Wyoming experience. In 1987 she published a novel,  Heart Mountain , about a Japanese internment camp during World War II. A second book of essays,  Islands, the Universe, and Home appeared in 1991. In 1994 she wrote  A Match to the Heart, which discusses the effects of having been struck by lighting, an event that hospitalized her. Ehrlich is an avid traveler, having made trips to the Himalayas, which inspired her to write  Questions of Heaven (1994), and to Greenland, about which she wrote  This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland (2002). “Chronicles of Ice” is from  The Future of Ice: A Journey into Cold (2004) . This essay is about a trip to a glacier at the southern end of Argentina, quite near the South Pole. It reflects her concern for the natural world and her fear that human activity is doing it irreversible harm. A trapped turbulence—as if wind had solidified. Then noise: timpani and a hard crack, the glacier’s internal heat spilling out as an ice stream far below. I’ve come on a bus from El Calafate, Argentina, to visit the World Heritage glacier Perito Moreno, to see its bowls, lips, wombs, fenders, gravelly elbows, ponds, and ice streams, and to learn whatever lessons a glacier has to teach. Some glaciers retreat, some surge, some do both, advancing and retreating even as the climate warms. Perito Moreno is 257 square kilometers across. It advances two meters a day at the center. From where I’m standing, I can look directly down on the glacier’s snout. Two spires tilt forward, their lips touching. They meet head to head, but their bodies are hollow. Sun scours them as they twist toward light. I walk down stairs to a platform that gives me a more intimate view. A row of ice teeth is bent sideways, indicating basal movement. Out of the corner of my eye I see something fall. A spectator gasps. An icy cheekbone crumbles. People come here to see only the falling and failings, not the power it takes for the glacier to stay unified. A glacier is not static. Snow falls, accretes, and settles until finally
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This note was uploaded on 08/17/2011 for the course ENGL 1301 taught by Professor Sergebrethe during the Summer '09 term at Austin Community College.

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Chronicles of Ice - Chronicles of Ice Gretel Ehrlich

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