Ever since I heard the story of the Titanic when I was a little girl I have been fascinated with icebergs.
And in 1993 – three years before my first visit to Canada – I went on a trip to the Himalalyas, to Makalu, the fifth highest mountain in the world. And there, no matter how hard you tried, you could never capture in a single photograph, the scale or grandeur of those formidable peaks. Imagine, I thought, just imagine that, as an iceberg, as a floating glacial giant, submerged in icy blue green waters. It is quite astounding to think that when you look at an iceberg, when you look at its mountains and plateaus and valleys, you are looking at something that is largely hidden from sight.
In writing Seldom Come By, I did quite a lot of research on icebergs; quite a lot that I never ended up using, such was my thrall. However all my research did not reveal to me this startling, obvious fact:
that icebergs emanate cold, like fires emanate heat
It was my good friend Leah, a native Newfoundlander, who apprised me of this point. She grew up in St Johns, the capital of Newfoundland, where many a time her world was so fogged in she couldn’t read a street sign just a few metres in front of her. But even on the foggiest of days, even if you couldn’t see a thing through your clouded surrounds, if you were close enough to the coast, you could tell the approach of an iceberg simply because of its halo of cold air.
And from that pivotal conversation, came my opening to Seldom Come By. Thank you, Leah!
Some days she knew they were there, just by a drop in the temperature, if they were close enough, but not today. Today she saw them first, not one but two towering spectacles. In the space of one hour they had come drifting casually into sight, carried along on unseen currents, their presence more than anything marking the shift in seasons. And had she had her head down or her back to the ocean she would have missed them. These floating, breakaway giants calved from the glacial north. Frozen formations that enthralled her with their crystal palaces, soaring peaks and mythical creatures revealed in icy magnitude. How they made the seascape come alive.