I was so very impressed by Czeslaw Milosz’s book Milosz’s ABC’s. There, in the form of a brief and alphabetically-ordered personal encyclopedia, was the story of the life of a Nobel Prize winning poet, of the people, places, and things that meant the most to him. Because his origins were so far away (Lithuania and Poland) and so long ago (1920s and 1930s), there were relatively few entries that resonated personally with me. Except it was sad to see so many fascinating people who, unknown today, died during the war under unknown circumstances.
My own ABCs consist of places I have loved (Iceland), things I feared (Earthquakes), writers I have admired (Chesterton, Balzac, Proust, and Borges); things associated with my past life (Cleveland and Dartmouth College), people who have influenced me (John F. Kennedy), foods I love (Olives), and things I love to do (Automobiles and Books). This blog entry is my own humble attempt to imitate a writer whom I have read on and off for thirty years without having sated my curiosity. Consequently, over the months to come, you will see a number of postings under the heading “Tarnmoor’s ABCs” that will attempt to do for my life what Milosz accomplished for his. To see my other entries under this category, hit the tag below marked “ABCs”. I don’t guarantee that I will use up all 26 letters of the alphabet, but I’ll do my best. Today the letter is “P” for both Patagonia and Penguins, which kind of go together in my mind.
Above is a photo I snapped on Isla Martillo, which lies on the Beagle Channel in Argentina’s Tierra Del Fuego. I had always wanted to go to Patagonia, ever since I read Paul Theroux’s The Old Patagonian Express and, even more, Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia. It was one of those places at the end of the earth. About six hundred miles south of Isla Martillo lies the Antarctic Peninsula. Even farther north lies Buenos Aires and the heavily populated temperate territories of Argentina.
Martine and I have always loved penguins. There was something helpless and cute about them, even though their fishy smell made them somewhat less than huggable. I think I was only able to get Martine to come with me to Patagonia if I could take her to places where she could walk among penguins in the wild. Although past “expeditionary” vacations in search of puffins and moose turned up a blank, I was able to deliver on the penguins—in spades. Isla Martillo was a small penguin rookery that was fascinating, and Punta Tombo in the State of Chubut was even more spectacular. We were there right around the time, to the day, that the Magellanic penguins were hatching. Our trip there was one of the happiest experiences of my life.
Do I want to go back to Patagonia? Absolutely. I’ve been there twice: The first time, on my own, I broke my shoulder by slipping on the ice in Ushuaia … but the second time was a charm.
Life always seems brighter when you could go to far places that you love.