How to cope in troubled times? Whispers from Antarctica

Antarctica mountains and icebergs

Sometimes you have to cover many miles to discover relief during troubled times. For me, I traveled from Alaska to Antarctica, camera gear in tow.

Little did I know, I’d be forced to focus on more than cute penguins…

First, a little background…

Somewhere between Seattle, Washington and Santiago, Chile I read that happiness is natural for us humans. Hard to believe, right?

Especially with fake news, sirens, TV, and barking dogs.

But when you think about it,
troubled times are nothing new

Consider the Bubonic Plague, World Wars, the Great Depression, and the Irish Potato Famine.

And let’s not forget: When Jesus Christ walked on the earth, water and fertile soil were scarce. There was a fair amount of sickness. And when King Herod died in 4 BC, political turmoil and religious unrest erupted.

Troubled times.

Yet he proved to the world that, “the power of love, understanding, forgiveness, and compassion is far greater, far more lasting, than the destructiveness of hate.” So writes Brother Chidenanda, a Self Realization Fellowship monk.

Breathe, sister, breathe because…

We can take courage from Christ’s example

“Know that with every good thought and act you, too, are bringing more of God’s love into this world,” he says.

It’s possible, you see.

In his book “Blueprint,” Yale professor Nicholas Christakis writes that love, friendship, and cooperation are hard-wired in humans.

Hold that idea as we revisit thoughts and actions…

When you think good thoughts and do good deeds, wonderful transformations take place in your life.

These changes may be subtle at first.

But it’s real.

Velveteen Rabbit real.

More real than what your senses — smell, touch, taste, hearing, sight — want you to believe.

Velveteen Rabbit

Christ encourages us (note the present tense) to live by the commandment he supremely emphasized.

Like me, you’ve probably read or heard this a million times, but let’s read it again together:

Love God with all thy heart,
and with all thy soul,
and with all thy mind,
and with all thy strength;
and thy neighbor as thyself.

But how to do that, in a world
that seems so loud, restless, and busy?

I asked myself the same question during a recent trip to Antarctica.

I traveled on a cruise ship with 300 other world citizens from Germany, Israel, the U.K., Australia, and Italy. In groups, we hiked up snowy peaks to watch penguins navigate their highways, kayak through ice chunks, and stare at piles of whale bones, humbled.

Toward the end of our cruise, the ship visited the Falkland Islands, east of Argentina. We jostled for prime positions at an albatross/penguin rookery. Twice, we celebrated our luck by nibbling on homemade cookie (biscuits) and coffee at a beach house.

Cruise ship in the Falkland Islands

The Roald Amundsen expedition ship: My home for 2 weeks while touring Antarctica and the Falkland Islands

Seeing penguins for the first time was met with a flurry of direct photos, selfie photos, and smartphone videos. People exclaimed their excitement to anyone who happened to be nearby. Many blah-blahed into their phones.

Would you please be quiet!

Human chatter has its place, but in Antarctica, it felt like fingernails on my mental blackboard.

While visiting the White Continent, I expected to hear penguin grunts (imagine thousands of Chewbaccas from Star Wars), take in clean air, feel breezes on my cheeks, and watch albatrosses soar gracefully.

And perhaps pick up a few ethereal sounds from abandoned whaling stations?

I shot lots of video footage but quickly realized that the sounds of birds, whales, and grasses moving in the wind were tarnished with human voices.

Frustration set it.

A gentoo penguin stands at the water's edge as a boatload of visitors depart.

A gentoo penguin stands calmly at the water’s edge as a boatload of visitors depart.

Emailing, half a planet away

I reached out for help by composing an email to my counselor in Florida.  The Internet was good, believe it or not.

She encouraged me to renew and recharge by going off by myself whenever possible, to seek solitude and peace in nature. In this case, penguin colonies.

As for achieving tranquility aboard the ship?

“The same thing,” she said. “Find a quiet place and sit in stillness, even for a few minutes.”

So I did.

For example, I’d get up early, grab a cup of coffee, and then climb the stairs (officially “ladder” on a ship) to the upper deck to watch for whales.

And each day I carved out a few minutes to meditate.

If you’ve never meditated, now’s the time to learn…

A beginner’s guide to meditation (6:48 with nice music):

Hey! Peace and happiness is your right

Okay. This is important: In this zoo of life, you can find peace.

Creating more calmness in your life though begins not with reading this blog post or listening to a podcast.

“It starts with consenting to change thought,” says Mark Sappenfield, editor of the Christian Science Monitor. In his opening comments to the January 13, 2020 issue, he’s referring to steps needed to adopt a Zero waste behavior.

Still, they rang true.

“The first step, in other words, is simply being willing to do something differently.”

And you have to be willing again and again.

Which means you’ll need to step out of a well-trodden path where the masses are slogging along, like these king penguins heading to the beach:

Penguins march to the ocean

One more thing…

Brother Chidananda reminds us that “whatever differences may seem to divide us in this realm of maya [delusion], they are superficial.”

As I stood at the rail, sipping coffee, I noticed that my frustrations began drifting away with the icebergs.

I hope this post provides some answers, some helpful tools.

Thanks for stopping by. Until next time,


P.S. Just curious: How do YOU cope with troubled times? Leave a comment below so we can share ideas.

You might also enjoy:

1. An uplifting article: Three personal stories to prove that miracles do happen 

2. A personal story: Insights • Inspirations • Gratitude • Joy • Peace

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Marion Owen is on a mission to help busy people survive day-to-day life by condensing topics such as photography, cooking, and organic gardening into bite-size pieces. Get Marion’s free 4-page “In Good Light: Photo Tips for Busy People” to feel newly recharged when taking pictures.

Chinstrap penguin in the snow

A chinstrap penguin rests after sliding down the mountain on its way to feed in the ocean. Burp.



  • Ken Rouse
    February 17, 2020 at 7:44 PM

    Hi Marion, love all your photos and wonderful thoughts and insights, look forward to reading them. Didn’t have enough cold and snow in Kodiak so you had to go and find more? Did you visit Big Springs north of Mammoth on 395? Crystal clear spring water comes out of the rocks and a few pvc pipes inserted into the rocks (fill up your jugs) this is the head waters of the Owens River that goes into Lake Crowley and then to the water supply in LA./

    Please check and see if you have any space available for another added week at you house 9/11-9/18 that is a Fri. to Fri.
    Our reservations are for the 19-27 of Sept. and have more guys that want to experience your beautiful home and island.
    These dates are the only ones available with good flights. You guys are always welcome to come and visit me in Corona del Mar if your travels allow.

    Thanks, Ken

  • Brian Gregory
    February 14, 2020 at 1:49 AM

    Hello Marion Welcome back from your eventful longitudinal odyssey of exploration and self discovery. Bravo ! You encountered penguins in their natural habitat. My experience was seeing them at the Stanley Park Zoo in Vancouver. Luvem ! They’re polite, unobtrusive, and always well dressed. They move like bullets in the water. Friction poses no obstacle for them. They air their concerns at frequent social gatherings. The stay at home dads do a great job while mom’s out and about.

    My primary question, among many others, is do you find Alaska somewhat balmy now ?
    Regards, Brian Gregory

    • marionowen
      February 14, 2020 at 5:11 PM

      Hi Brian… Still snowing in Kodiak. Alternating between rain, snow, ice. We are, however, RV-ing right now. Camped at Mammoth Mountain RV Park where temps dive into single digits at night. Made heart-shaped pancakes for Valentine’s Day. Ahhh, I remember Stanley Park well. Lived in Vancouver a short time but didn’t go to the zoo. I rate penguins alongside elephants as favorite animals. Penguins … how can you not love them? Thanks for commenting!

  • Catherine
    February 13, 2020 at 11:49 PM

    I love this newsletter. It is so uplifting and fabulous. All of your newsletters are that way and I so much appreciate you and your positivity. Thank you!! Maybe a podcast to hear how the penguins positive imprints inspired you!!

    • marionowen
      February 14, 2020 at 5:13 PM

      I haven’t thought about doing podcasts, Linda. I’m torn between making short movies and podcasts. Maybe a blend, you think. By the way, if you have comments about how my blog’s new look works for you, please let me know. Warm hugs and thank you for your thoughts. Always welcome.

    • marionowen
      February 14, 2020 at 5:14 PM

      Ooops, Catherine… I meant to say CATHERINE. Please forgive me!

  • Linda
    February 13, 2020 at 7:01 PM

    Marion, you are such a blessing.
    I appreciate you so very much.
    Thank you!

    • marionowen
      February 14, 2020 at 5:20 PM

      Your comment Linda almost reads like a Haiku! And I appreciate you taking time to share your thoughts and feelings. If you know someone who you think might enjoy these posts, feel free to share the love with a link. Have a great week!

  • Candy Falatko
    February 10, 2020 at 1:11 AM

    Thank you, Marion…for it all. Loved seeing your notes and photos during your recent trip too. Not too surprising that even there you had to struggle for quiet. That is our world today. We all need to find the peace and quiet. Without it so much of life is lost. It is something I too search for daily. In 2019 I gave up the news and all social media, email, etc. for 40 days for Lent. It was different and very special. After those 40 days it took me a long time to get back to it. I think 40 days is a magic number… IS long enough to make a difference and referenced in the Bible for that reason. I’m wondering, since as we age time seems to fly by, if a great part of that is because we are not focused on the moment, but on a million different things at once. May we all find our quiet in 2020.

    • marionowen
      February 14, 2020 at 5:17 PM

      Hi Candy… I finally arrived at a place where I have a good signal. Now in Mammoth Mountain RV Park. Chilly here, but beautiful as we make our way to Death Valley and then to Arizona. I agree on the need for quiet. We look down at our devices when we should be looking up (and within) for God. Sending you love…

  • Barbara B.
    February 1, 2020 at 3:43 PM

    I so enjoyed reading your blog Marion. Photos are stunning.
    Many thanks for speading the Light wherever you go.

  • marionowen
    January 26, 2020 at 11:32 AM

    Glad, Luanne, that you seek and find peace, too. For in our silence, God’s silence ceases. And remember to keep your camera close at hand while walking those trails!

  • Luanne Cottle
    January 23, 2020 at 2:26 AM

    Nature is my quiet space. I thoroughly enjoy meditating on Gods word as I walk the trails here. Timed at the right time of day, I have them to myself. I learned years ago to find alone time with God for my peace of mind? Great Word Marion. Glad you were able to find your quiet time. Lovely photos .


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