Who could forget that time, that annum, that orbit of our sun? “2007” we called her, simply, as if a mere label could possibly capture such a thing, the thrill of her being, the glory of her quiet but determined pride?
That was the year where we learned just what Arctic sea ice could achieve, and what we all might eventually be able to achieve.
All sat in awe that year, their mouths agape, astonished at what their eyes took in. Day after day we watched 2007 Arctic sea ice extent plunge deeper and deeper, shrinking faster all the time, down into regions no year had ever been in before.
Daily the numbers rolled in. Slowly the tension built. Many kept their own spreadsheets and graphs. Small boys took flashlights to bed, staring at the charts as they huddled under blankets. Old men sat awake with a glass of whiskey, staring into the night, feeling the stir kicked up in places they had long forgotten.
Over the weeks of that memorable summer, spectators everywhere realized that 2007 was a year with pluck, with determination, with something different deep in her heart. She tore away from the pack and then kept going, getting stronger as she went, discovering something even she did not of know beforehand. When she finished the race on September 24th she had dropped to 4.25 million square kilometers, a number that had until then been simply unimaginable, a value not of this realm, not even of this wonderful and infinite universe.
Some compared her to Secretariat, some to Gehrig, yet others to Michael Jordan. For me she compared to Roberto Clemente, the hero of my youth. But many came to believe she was incomparable, one of a kind, like the Hope Diamond, like Marilyn Monroe, something no one had seen and would ever see the likes of ever again.
The boys under the blankets grew and the old men passed on. The world moved on, changing, always changing, but the magic was gone.
Or so it seemed.
There were no hints even a month ago. Sure, 2011 was good, even better than most, but it was just another year in long list of them. Its sea ice extent was low, but others before her had been low too. No one believes anymore anyway. Now everyone expects the worst. If Hope is a thing with feathers, it had flow the coop long, long ago.
But 2011 was apparently not listening. It seems to have a mind of its own, to be driven by forces of which we are only dimly aware. Every day its ice extent quietly melted, doing the hard, unseen job of reacting to the climate. The arguments of others moved on. Some even said the entire argument was over, a thing of the past, something only children still played with. But 2011 stayed true to herself, even if no one else did.
Then, about two weeks ago, the sea ice broke. 2011’s ice extent took a little jog upward, and then, from out of nowhere, veered downward. Sharply downward, with not only grace but power, with heft, with muscle, and with even a type of courage.
Something shot through the masses, like the wave off a supernova. Could it be? Could it possibly be? Could 2011 be another 2007?
No way all the cynics snickered. Cut the crazy talk said the usual bullies, threatening to give another good thumping.
“2011, I served with 2007,” a wise old year said. “I knew 2007. 2007 was a friend of mine. 2011, you’re no 2007.”
But 2011 has continued to fight. Its sea ice extent has continued to plunge, all through this month. Day-after-day it goes up against the previous champion, and day-after-day it comes back bloodied but unbowed. Its negative slope now equals anything seen in that earlier year. Its correlation is strong. The numbers don't lie.
The rumblings are beginning again, low but building. Could this be another record-setter? And so soon? Does this year have what it takes--not just the warmth, not just the high pressure systems, but the bravery, the tenacity, the something special deep, deep within?
No one knows. No one can possibly predict. Least of all me.
Yet it makes you wonder. What have we really learned? All those neat answers to all those big questions. All the rows and columns. Who really knows?
But you know what?
Somewhere, I suspect, there is a young boy stocking up on double-A batteries. Somewhere an tired, old man stands before a store shelf, comparing expensive bottles of amber Irish whiskies. They have a sense, a feeling, a spark inside. Something here is different. They wonder what it is. For they know, they know, that in the nights to come the world may yet again seen a year unlike any other, a year even unimagined, a year that brings open water to closed minds and answers to questions we never even knew to ask.
A year that shows what is possible, and what might even create belief in the impossible.
2011. Keep your eye on this one folks, because she’s a comer. She's in the final turn, and the home stretch lies ahead. She has an eye on it, a bold, unshielded eye, and most of all she knows that the test that awaits there is unknowable. Still she does not blink. The best ones never do.
Something is different. Something here doesn't add up. Even the cynics know it, and they hardly know anything.