A Clockwork for the Land in Beth Peterson’s “Cairns” – Essay Daily

In celebration of Beth Peterson‘s gorgeous essay collection, Dispatches From the End of Ice, I wrote an essay about one of her essays. My piece appears as the December 7 installment of the 2020 Essay Advent Calendar published by Essay Daily.


One day, a Norwegian glacier museum burns to the ground. The glacier beyond it continues its incremental melting. “That’s the thing about a world on fire,” writes Beth Peterson. “You wonder if when the match was first struck, what would have happened if you had known to look.”

Strange losses abound in Peterson’s essay collection, Dispatches From the End of Ice. A theory of the universe is advanced, then dismissed. Peterson herself falls into a crevasse. A literature professor disappears while hiking on a Japanese volcano. And a friend is gone forever when he takes a deadly plunge off a mountainside. Even the coroner cannot initially identify him, for every single one of his teeth is broken from the fall.      

“Apocalypse literature,” Beth Peterson reminds us, “pulls back the veil on reality.”      

If Dispatches From the End of Ice pulls back a veil, here’s what I see behind it: the paradox that loss magnifies more than it erases.

Full piece available here.

Background photo credit: Jeremy Pataky.Fonts: Canada 1500 by Ray Larabie and Adobe Jenson Pro by Robert Slimbach.
This was a Hiya, Scout! design.