My obsession assumes solid form above latitude 66. There, North turns Arctic, the real Arctic found from September to March in a place of game. As the sun sweeps around the horizon between the equinoxes, land and water harden, whiten, heave, crack, and crush. And across level plains advance wild animals. The coats of musk oxen make them into brindled hillocks on graystockinged hooves, their casqued horns the color of straw, turning upward to brown tips as steam billows from square muzzles. The shovel-antlered caribou are nearly white, the herds in their thousands moving without pause, tendons slipping over foot bones, filling the air with the curious sound of clicking. And where the herds part in the distance, the air shimmering even below zero, wolves hunt—with
qaavik, the wolverine, waiting to scavenge.
Here, the bears are white as the ivory of walruses. And perhaps the continent’s last true hunters, the Inuit, do more than subsist, instructing us that a terrain of frozen whiteness could be Eden.