(Editor’s note: The following is an essay by Elizabeth Bourne, a Seattle artist who moved to Longyearbyen a year ago. She is now in quarantine on the Norwegian mainland until April 1 after returning to the U.S. to sell her home and possessions in anticipation of living in Svalbard for the foreseeable future. It is presented with minimal editing.)
Home. To return home is one of nature’s strongest instincts. Monarch butterflies travel 3,000 miles to return home. King salmon swim 6,000 miles to find their home pond. Arctic terns fly an amazing 24,000 miles from their southern grounds back to Svalbard to nest.
My home is also Svalbard. I was 4,000 miles and nine time zones away as news reached me of how bad coronavirus was in other countries – China, S. Korea, Iran, Italy. Seattle had one case, then suddenly it spread like fire through nursing homes in Seattle, then patients’ families spread it into the south Seattle community, and further. I worried how I would get home, if I could get home.