21 January 2010



there's a sudden and violent rainstorm, which catches us by surprise out in town. there's blue sky to either side of Puerto Williams, but the black clouds overhead stream curtains of rain down, obscuring the mountains. the scent of wet grass rises and mixes with wet woodsmoke. I can only imagine how smoky the town must be in the winter. Chopping wood seems to be a full-time occupation here, at least during the warmer months.

we wait out the storm, and soon the brilliant sun is out again, like a late summer morning. it's been a beautiful day, punctuated by rain. somehow, being surrounded by the dramatic expanse of Tierra del Fuego, the Andes, and Cabo de Hornos, the weather doesn't feel as freaky as it would in Punta Arenas, which is for all its remoteness a functional city suffering from bewildering mood-swings of light, wind and weather. as we walk down the hill against a chilly wind, the brilliant sun warms our backs. a fat quarter-rainbow reaches from somewhere inside the cloud cover down to the choppy surface of the Beagle.

there is a pleasant noise of children playing. this place has strikingly little to worry about, which makes the obstinance of the two armadas all the more maddening. it seems so childish to draw national lines across a gleaming, wild body of water. the only things dividing the two countries, at this point, are the uniforms, and the rituals and formalities--humiliations-- of paperwork.

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