Here in Seattle, we ended July with six consecutive days of 90-plus degree heat—a new record. That is by no means as hot as other parts of the world, but it has been a sobering event here. On the first day of the heat wave, I had gone kayaking. The air was cooler by the water and if I got hot, all I had to do was dip my hands and hat in the water. During the last two days of the heat wave, smoke from wildfires in British Columbia tainted the air a blue haze and the faint smell of wood smoke. Kayaking and all other forms of outdoor exercise weren’t advisable so I was stuck at home. I don’t have air conditioning—most old houses in Seattle don’t—so I got by with fans, an air purifier, and a spray bottle for a cooling mist of water. Even so, the heat and the confinement were stultifying. Thinking there might be some truth in the saying “where the mind goes, the body follows,” I pulled out the color slides of the kayaking trip I took in Greenland 20 years ago. Peering through the loupe at the luminous blue icebergs and the chalk-white glaciers provided the escape I needed.

Photographs by the author except as noted

There were nine of us in the group. Here, from left, are Jette and Ole from Denmark, our guide Baldvin from Iceland, and Barbara and Randy from the U.S. They had rafted up for a snack break while paddling north along Sermiligâq Fjord. Randy tried his luck at fishing but never caught anything.

In the summer of 2012, I joined guide Baldvin Kristjansson and seven other paddlers on the southeast coast of Greenland to paddle the 30 miles from the village of Kuummiit to the Knud Rasmussen Glacier. There were icebergs around us from the very start, but they were just bergy bits and growlers—as the smaller floating blocks of ice are called—and few were any larger than the kayaks we paddled. They were interesting as a novelty to me as an outsider, but what captivated me was the color of the water around the kayak. If I looked straight down, the dark reflection of my head obscured the reflections of the clouds and sky, which masked the surface like a film of oil. The water was immaculate, limitless, and a hue of green that I have only seen when I catch a glimpse into the edge of a plate-glass door. It was hard to take my eyes off it.

Read this article now for free!

Sign up here (No credit card required) to finish reading your article now.

— OR —

Subscribe now for $29.99 a year! You'll have access to our new issues as they are published, and access to our entire archive of back issues, starting with our inaugural issue in September 2014. Subscribers can also post unlimited classified ads. This is an extraordinary value!