Have there been times when you believed that you knew something, but found out later that what you thought you knew was either completely wrong, or at best incomplete? This was my situation last month in Alaska. I thought I was a know it all, or at least a know it a little bit, found out that I was a know it not.
After a magical helicopter ride I was standing on top of a glacier. It didn’t look anything like what I thought a glacier looked like. I had certainly seen pictures of glaciers calving on National Geographic. As I stood there, I realized that I had a very “kindergarten” or one-dimensional view of a glacier. In reality I knew nothing at all. This was quite sobering. I found that I couldn’t really wrap my brain around it.
I walked on the glacier, looked into the deep tunnels, drank from a glacial stream, and marveled at the beauty. Soon after we boarded an air boat and viewed the glacier from that level. I got to see another aspect of a glacier, and it looked a little bit more like what I had seen on TV.
The next day we entered Glacier Bay. There I saw two distinctly different glaciers. One wasn’t even white. They were close enough together that I could view them by simply turning my head. That totally blew my mind.
I continued to grapple with the question what is a glacier for the rest of the trip. I looked it up on the internet and found “a slowing moving mass or river of ice formed by the accumulation and compaction of snow on mountains or near the poles.” I also found “a glacier is a persistent body of dense ice that is constantly moving under its own weight; it forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation over many years, often centuries.” Even by the time we left, I couldn’t tell a glacier from a mountain most of the time.
I was left wondering how often in my life I have been convinced that I understood something and been totally wrong because I had only viewed it from one vantage point. I will need to be more careful in assuming what I do and do not know.