Field Notes

"Field Notes" by Natasha Seymour
"We leaned into the enormous red crater, where the ground concaved like the inside of a coracle. When I looked closer, I saw the dust from the bowl travel in particles, like clusters of stars. The deep, craggy floor of the thing rippled and contracted like a diaphragm or a sea anemone, pulsing emphatically, disturbed by the flock of tourists who were cramming in around the precipice with their camera phones and selfie sticks. Their drones hovered above us, taking bird’s-eye snaps which later, when we looked again, would show nothing but a glaring white light.

My job is to drive people to the mountains and then guide them on foot to see the thing. We camp at the site for one night, before walking back to the car and returning to the city. This group was small, twelve people or so. As we all stood around the thing, I told them a story—the same story I tell everyone.

“Archaeologists claim that this area was the resting place of Noah’s Ark,” I said. “A refuge for all the Earth’s creatures; history’s apobaterion, a place of landing, of rest.” The real believers are religious prophets and tourist pamphlets, not archaeologists—but I don’t tell them that.

My real job is to tell this story well, to distract people from the fear and turn their guilt into something that’s easier to swallow. As it turns out, history makes a pretty decent inebriant. If you tell it right, the past becomes a spiritual mooring, a refuge from solastalgia—from the blinding grief of witnessing environmental cataclysm."