Thursday, August 23, 2012

Wilderness Boys, Bug & Novel Jackets

 I don't normally post photos of myself with my boy, but today this photo from an adventure in the Alaskan wilderness a few weeks ago popped up on my screen and I thought I would share it. The scenic backdrop of this particular location (somewhere up the Takotna River) looks strangely similar to the first jacket cover of The Raven's Gift from Penguin Canada with the black spruce, taiga, tundra, and mountains in the background. 
The strange jacket I've got on is a bug suit, as the mosquitoes and no-see-ums were vicious, but they could have been worse, as we were actually able to uncover and snap a quick photo in the tundra cotton. The bugs in Alaska can be so thick at times that they will literally drive you mad. The little blood suckers fly into your eyes and nose and ears, and the hum can be unnerving, as if the very air around you has transformed into some sort of monster trying to devour any exposed flesh. I have seen caribou who have been driven crazy by the bugs. They run themselves to near death. Not a pleasant sight, and I've been there a few times myself. Had I the energy or the ability to run crazy across the tundra I would have. We humans don't have that option. All we can do is cover up and hope for a strong wind. You could bathe in 100% DEET until your nervous system failed, and the bugs would still feed on your carcass. Alaska bugs are no joke, hence the reason I was holding Atticus so tight, they little bastards would have carried him away.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

August and Fall in Alaska

And just like that, fall hath fell upon Alaska like a storm off the Bering Sea. Oh, right. This storm struck Alaska courtesy of the Bering Sea. The giant hurricane like beast appeared slightly smaller than Texas on the radar, and with it carried torrential rain, category one or two winds and the notion that summer in Alaska is over.
Folks on the Lower 48 don't quite get that idea. See, August is still summer in the rest of the USA, but not here in Alaska. Sure we might get a sunny day or two, but for the most part August means the leaves will begin to turn and that the majority of us can expect rain, winds, and silver salmon. Silvers are the official sign to put your sandals away and get your X-tra Tuffs back out.
August for me is winter preparation time. Actually right now I need to get off the computer and repair my leaking roof.  The rest of August, after I return from the bush,  I'll spend too many hours each week sawing and chopping wood to keep the woodstove crackling for all those cold winter nights soon to blanket our little mountain home. Sure I'll get a little writing done, but for the good majority of this month, I'll be swinging an axe...

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Writing Re-Charge, Alaskan Style

About this time every year I disappear into the Alaskan wilderness for a few weeks. I'm still actually visible for that duration, but by modern standards, I don't exist. No electricity. No running water. No phone.
Okay, so I'm not totally telling the truth. There is running water by way of the Takotna River flowing past the cabin. A small red Honda generator hums for a few hours each day to charge the laptop battery. And I could climb a tree and make an emergency radio-phone call if I needed. Important messages come by way of public radio announcements on KSKO McGrath. The only web connection comes when walking down trails in the morning and feeling the sticky spider snare on the skin of your face.
Yes, this is where I go to recharge my writing batteries and reconnect with the Alaska I love most...
The only tweets come from camp robbers and their friends. The status updates from beaver tails slapping the river. The calls from ravens, magpies, and late at night a wolf or two.
Here I'll spend several hours each day repairing sheds, the cabin roof, or cutting trees and clearing brush. Take a hike or two. Pick berries. Swat at and curse mosquitos and no-see-ums. Then at night I'll sit down at the table beside the crackling woodstove and write like mad in the perfect stillness.
And for those stormy rainy days, if I'm not curled up with a good book, I'll be hunched over the laptop working away at the next novel.