On the bright side

If thou hast ever been driven into the desert beyond Basra, gentle reader — and I have known men who were — you may think twice about returning on holiday. “Iraq is not a country which I would recommend to mountaineers,” wrote H. W. Tilman. (He more enjoyed the Himalayas.)

Among the peculiarities of its climate, the desert beyond Basra offers violent gales, accompanied, naturally, by sand storms. These begin quite early every morning, and continue into the late afternoon. The sand, chiefly, makes it impossible to do anything between those hours, except cower in one’s tent (“until it collapses”). Evenings are devoted to digging out half-buried trucks.

In my present circumstance, within a construction site (see here), I try to think of this. Similarly, during heat waves in summer, I imagine myself sailing on the windless waters that circle the earth around the equator. (“Doldrums,” I think they’re called.) Or in winter, I could be crossing the Greenland ice cap, on snow shoes, with no end in sight.

The fires are raging, I hear, in California. Just now I was listening to some global environmentalcase, talking his rot about “climate change.” I reflect on my good fortune. Without resorting to anything so fanciful, I am able to conjure places slightly worse.