It was just past four o’clock when we lost power. The soft lights strung about the Christmas tree flickered and went out, and the various electrical hums around the house all ceased at once. Outside, the first Nor’easter to hit the coast of Maine this season was raging with its winds and sleeting rain against an already-black sky. During the longest night of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere, we lean away from the sun and wait for the days to lengthen again. We light bonfires and sing for summer. We weather the snow and the bitter cold. Or, we fly to the equator. In twenty years I’ve never left a harsh Maine winter, but soon I’ll head South for a place where the effects of the planet’s axial tilt are too mild to yield any noticeable change in daylight or temperature: Ecuador.
One-hundred-and-eighty-one years ago, in the snowy shadow of another winter solstice, Charles Darwin left England for warmer waters. His now-published journal was written more than a century before anyone thought up the word “blog” (his entries took three years to reach the public instead of three seconds), but it was a prototype study-abroad journal, the original blog before the invention of glowing screens and yellow fever vaccines, and now I read each pre-departure entry closely. In mid-December, he writes: “Incessantly busy in ordering, paying for, packing all my numberless things; how I long for Monday…even sea sickness must be better than this wearisome anxiety.”
I find that, as I write this, I stop every minute or so to gnaw on my cuticles, and I wonder if Darwin bit his fingernails. I’m anxious, but it feels good to be scared of something. Lately my life in the buildings of my liberal arts college has felt too safe, too predictable, too sterile. The next four months will be something bright and new, and after all, unlike poor Darwin, who missed the invention of the airplane by a few years, I needn’t worry at all about sea sickness!
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Grace is a junior at Connecticut College with a major in botany. She grew up on the coast of Maine and looks forward to leaving its harsh winter for the equatorial Galapagos Islands. Grace’s interests include paleontology, backpacking, folk music, and fermented foods. Join her as she heads to Ecuador for the semester!</span></p>