I notice a slight ache in my quads as I climbed to the top of the stairs. Must be from my hike yesterday. Pushing myself forward, I cross the deck, climb another set of stairs, and reach my goal: the Peildeck (Pile deck).
It's the top deck of the ship, the roof of the bridge, the highest point where scientists are allowed. Not much is up there – well, besides the weather sensors. It is exposed and windy and often cold, but it is my paradise.
From the Peildeck, I can see to the horizon. The views are simply unmatched. Ice floes and polar bears and midnight sun and mountains. Northern lights and jellyfish and distant land and seals. I come up here to take in my surroundings, to get out of the lab and give my eyes a rest. But it's more than that. I come up here to decompress, to feel the sun on my face and the cold in my lungs. To breathe the air and feel the wind and thank God that I'm alive. On the Peildeck, I feel free.
Trips to the Arctic are always good for my soul, and this one could not have come at a better time. There have been several things knocking me off-center lately, both personally and professionally. But for some reason, whenever I come up here, I feel invisible weights lifting off of my shoulders. Whatever has been weighing on me dissolves in the cold air and is carried away by the wind. I am washed clean in the north.
This cruise is both a return to my past and a step toward my future. It's been so comforting to interact with my German colleagues again, and I can see our working relationships have grown and matured. Being in Norway and being among Germans again now that I'm a postdoc has made me feel more connected to those past experiences. I feel like my career is becoming less like a cluster of threads and more like a braid. As my collaborations continue and my projects develop, I hope it will become a tapestry.
The wind starts to bite my skin as I stand on the Peildeck. Below me, I can see the ship's crew preparing to set sail. Somewhere in the great distance, my samples rest quietly on the seafloor, clueless that they will soon be beckoned from the depths. I take a deep breath and relish the cold. Here, on the Peildeck, in the cold and the wind, with warm relationships around me and thrilling science before me, this is my center.