I’m not going to lie. The days here in Alaska during my 30-day writing residency run together. There are days when I sit at my writing desk, glancing up between bouts of laying down paragraphs, barely noting the drying fireweed of fall in the field beyond my window, barely remembering there are volcanoes across the Cook Inlet. Only to be greeted by a radiant view of Iliamna breaking through the clouds. Today, it was the merest hint of a rainbow arcing over Mt. Augustine that caught my surprise. (Well, where the volcanic island is supposed to be, but at 60-some miles distant, it’s socked in today.) Sometimes, it’s the striated colors of clouds stretched and loosely twisted like taffy at sunset that make me grab my camera. These things catch my notice. But they don’t all stick with me. (That first night’s sunset does, because it turned out to be an ephemeral and welcoming one. No sunset has touched it since.) Read more
It’s a rare day when the phone call comes. The phone call. The one that marks a before and after. When the phone rang that day for me, I remember glancing at my phone and seeing a number I didn’t recognize and “Alaska” as the caller’s location. Immediately, names started cycling through my head. Who did I know in Alaska at the moment? There was Elise. And Elisa. Possibly Jonathan. Maybe Brenda. Megan and Darren. Many of the field biologists with whom I’ve helped or written about spend summer field seasons in Alaska. Read more
Old guy. Cane. Black fleece vest. Black trucker’s cap. Black slacks. Black leather orthotic sneakers. He veers my way. I think he’s going to ask for help. Directions somewhere. How to get to baggage claim, maybe. His cane click clacks with every step.
“I don’t know,” he says when he gets a few feet away from me. He seems nice enough, I think. I’d be happy to help him.
He doesn’t miss a stride. “Your sled dog doesn’t look too spry.” Read more
One hundred and fifty years ago today, Mark Twain was back on O‘ahu, after five weeks on Maui and three weeks on Hawai‘i Island.
When I was on O‘ahu a while back, I met James E. Caron outside Morning Glass Coffee in Manoa Valley. He’s tall—taller than I am—with grey in his beard and bushy eyebrows. Bushy eyebrows? Why is it that everyone I met on this Tracking Twain reporting trip reminded me of Mark Twain? Read more
In the days before Cook introduced Hawai‘i to the world and an onslaught of foreigners arrived. Back in the days before the old religion was abolished and missionaries arrived on scene. I’ve read that winged creatures represented messengers of the gods, because, unlike mere humans, birds can fly to great lengths and heights. Places far over the sea. Places high in the mountains, where as the scientific phenomenon known as the orographic effect explains, that are often shrouded in mist and clouds and a sense of the ethereal. Birds can easily mix between the mortal and immortal. Read more