I have stood in the Cloud Forest, where the mist is so thick you cannot see your hand held at arm's length. I have been to Death Valley, and to Selva Negra, where the canopy of the forest is so thick light cannot reach the ground. I have climbed to the peak of the highest of the german alps, Zugspitze, where the sky grows thin and cracked as glass. I have peered into active volcanos. I have been scuba diving in three oceans, and I have been in caves in as many countries. I have been in Seattle, the most beautiful city of all, my City of Shadows, concrete and cherry blossoms and waterfalls and the full moon on the waters.
But now I have seen the end of all things. And there just aren't words. What can I say - "I went to the End of the World, and then returned and had Thai food with too much cilantro"?
All right - tors. Here's a recipe: start with unfrozen ground, with water in, and rocks. Freeze it. The water expands, pushes the ground into a little hill and thrusts the rocks into the air, stone fingers ten, twenty feet tall. Okay, now you have spongy-frozen dirt. It absorbs more water, and the water freezes, pushes the hill higher, and there's now so much ice pressure that a ring of stones is pushed out around the first one. Add more water, another ring. You end up with a natural stonehenge, something like a stone rose, the inner monoliths point straight to the sky, the others splayed in spiral opening rings.
All right - the plants. They're all bunched low to the ground, in reds and purples, aven and crowberry and bearberry and dwarf willow, and splotchy lichens in black and white and pale green on the stones of the tor that enclose life's small, quiet, purple offering to the cold.
And there's snow, of course - I fell up to my chest once. It was otherworld, like diving - low twisted plants and rocks with blotches in strange colors and the snow as pure and soft as sand. And I thought, this is what we will grow on Mars when we terraform, chlorophyll-3 plants, dark and low and purple, these lichens in white and black and crumpled green, and this frost and snow. And the wind. I think I lost something to it, something I gave up to know that Music, something I had to lose to love it, blown away like ash.
And if you climb the tor, if you brace your bare feet on its lichen-knobbed stone and the wind howls in your hair and steals the breath from your lungs, and you look, you see nothing but snow and cold and rock and lichen. Forever. That's all there is. The end of all things. The sun that never sets, and the snows that never end.