We are at latitude 70 degrees north, longitude 23 east, docked at Alta, the world’s northernmost town, a flat expanse of shed-like buildings, reached after threading miles of fjords between mazes of snow-sprinkled hills. So far we haven’t seen the Northern Lights, but I let myself be taken an hour’s drive inland, along the frozen Alta river and up beautiful gorges through a mountain range to an inland region and Masi, a hamlet of the Sami people (the Lapps), and let myself be pulled along on a sled by a reindeer who had lost one antler.
Actually my sled, a triangular bath over wooden runners, was pulled by the lead reindeer; a string from the left front of my sled went to the muzzle of the second reindeer, who pulled the second sled, and so on down a line of sleds. We coursed out over a frozen lake. This second reindeer, trottiing close beside me, leaned his head inward, because of this string – or because of the weight of his single antler. He had a many-branched right antler, three feet high, and no left antler. The lone and formidable antler often dipped close to my face. He was subject to precession, like the earth or the moon or Mercury.
I wanted to pat the reindeer’s side, which had a horizontal goldish streak like the edge of a page, and wondered whether he had lost his left antler in a fight or a collision with a tree or had never had one. I tried to ask the Sami guide, who wore fur-brimmed reindeer-leather hat, blue jacket with red-and-gold trimmings, short skirt of densely colored pleats, red embroidered reindeer-skin leggings, and curly-toed reindeer-fur boots. He just said: “They grow again.”
Here is the moon four and half days after it eclipsed the sun, which is setting behind the. island west of Alta.
We couldn’t send this till days later, at Bergen.