Tag Archives: writing

Tracks

Twenty-five degrees one day. Thirty degrees yesterday. Thirty-five
degrees today. It is hot. I am dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, and still I
am warm, as I travel in and out of the cabin working on projects. I let the
fire go out sometime in the night. Craziness.

The heat has me restless. It isn’t a good day for chores. I throw some
things into the pack, sling it over my shoulder, and race for the trail.

I have been walking thirty minutes when I hear a snowmachine off in
the distance. It is coming in my direction. A moose has crossed the trail in
the past few days, so I leave the trail and follow the moose tracks into the
trees. A few moments later the machine passes where I had been
standing. I am too deep in the forest to see it, but the stench of the
exhaust sneaks up on me; it floats across the land like a fog. I travel
deeper.

I follow the tracks in the soft snow until they lead me to a major moose
trail. A moose highway. There is no scent of exhaust. The route is heavily
traveled. Hooves have pounded their way through the moss down into the
soil, leaving a long, thin trough in the earth. The moss on either side of me
is above my calves. My boots start to follow hooves. This moose trail is
almost perfectly straight; it cuts diagonally across the valley wall to the
floor below. I have a route like this below my cabin, but this one is new to
me.

A raven flies up from behind me; I turn, but can hear the wingbeats
long before I can see the bird. I can feel the wingbeats as the bird flies
closer. The pulse flows through me with every downward thrust of the
wings. When the raven flies overhead, the sound is like I can hear the air as it
passes by each individual feather. Above me, the raven croaks its
acknowledgment. They are polite, if mischievous birds.

I continue to follow the hooves.

Down at the valley floor, the moose highway spreads out into a delta of
tracks. Thousands of prints now head helter-skelter towards the willows. I
spot a set of huge moose tracks, and follow them into the thickets.

In the willows I hear the sound of running water. The creek is flowing.
I move towards the sound, and soon find myself in slush. Overflow. I am
surrounded by overflow. I retrace my steps over what proves to be a
peninsula of dry land. Much of the valley is flooded, so I loop around and
venture downstream to investigate.

With the overflow behind me, I travel back into the willows. I am
drawn to a set of tracks that parallel my own route. Something about
them seems out of place. Upon reaching the tracks, I hover over them in
surprise and awe. They are bear tracks. They are grizzly tracks. I kneel
down to get a close-up view, and run my fingertips over the rough form in
the snow.

An awake grizzly.

I count back, and figure that this bear has been out and about
sometime in the past five days, which was the last time we had a snowfall.
“Why are you awake?” I ask the tracks. There is a particularly good print
that catches my eye. The pad imprints are crystal clear, and my heart
pounds at the gap in the snow between them and the marks of the claws.
The gap is rather large.

I venture off and stop following any tracks; I am content now to simply
leave my own in the unmarked snow.


-7 Walks

I spent the day chasing material ghosts, as I attempted to work up a bid for a job I want. No matter how I approached the job, the materials simply were not in town. Two weeks was the mantra I heard from every supplier. It’ll be two weeks.

I gave up around 3pm, laced up my mukluks, and went outside to bring in firewood. The thermometer read -7F.

After the wood bin was full, I went on my afternoon walk. Already, I can see the gain in daylight since the solstice.

A moose had been by since the day before, it’s tracks under the willows plain to see. A musher came up from behind almost in silence. Two of her three dogs gave my gloved hand a light nip as they ran by. The musher apologized as she sped by me. I took the nibbles to mean the dogs were enjoying being out today as much as I was, but she was already out of range by the time my chilled lips spit out the words: “No worries”.

Dusk was settling in as I returned to the cabin, and the thermometer now read -13F. My eyelashes had iced up a bit, but other than that, life was good. Perfection lies somewhere between zero and minus twenty when you live in a winter wonderland such as this.


#Artober24

I received a special request recently to make a positive post, using art in some form, under the hashtag artober24. Art isn’t exactly what I do on this site, and I’m traveling at the moment, so I don’t have access to much, but I agreed to make an attempt. I’m not much for social media, so C to C will have to do.

The aurora flowed like a great river;
An inverted Yukon meandering across the sky.
Time lapsed. Banks eroded. The brilliant green
river changed its course.
Then drought hit, and the powerful flow was reduced
to a faint puddle, a dim shimmer.
The sky was quiet.

With an explosion, the aurora returned as a wall of
thunderheads.
Imposing. Inspiring. Pulsing.
The lower layer of the wall of light was magenta.
The aurora’s lightning.
Thin lines of green light dropped down from
the glowing storm.
Like sheets of rain falling on the distant hills.


Zen and Life


Robert Pirsig and his son Chris in 1968

Robert Pirsig, the author of the mid-1970’s cultural phenom “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, has passed away at his home in Maine.

Part road trip novel, the book is based on a motorcycle trip Pirsig took with his son, Christopher in 1968. The two Pirsigs rode from their home in Minnesota to the Pacific Coast over the course of 17 days.

Pirsig often said that 121 publishing houses passed on “Zen” until William Morrow agreed to publish it. “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” would sell over 50,000 copies in the first month of publication, and over 1 million the first year.

Robert Pirsig was 88.


Going solo

One's Company - cover

“… the ideal companion is rare, and in default of him it is better to make a long journey alone. One’s company in a strange world.”
— Peter Fleming, “One’s Company”

“Even if I should, by some awful chance, find a hair upon my bread and honey – at any rate it is my own hair.”
— Katherine Mansfield, from her “Journal”.


Ernest Gann

Ernest Gann

A happy birthday to the famed aviator and author, Ernest Gann. Gann was born in Lincoln, NE on this date in 1910. He learned to fly in the early 1930’s and by the end of that decade was flying DC-2’s for American Airlines. In 1942, like many American pilots, Gann was absorbed into the Air Transport Command to assist in the war effort.

DC-2
The Douglas DC-2

Gann would turn his adventures of flying into a second career as an author. He wrote over 26 novels, of which 21 would become best sellers. He also wrote the screenplays, adapting 11 of his novels for both film and television. When I first moved to Alaska, I came across my favorite of Gann’s books: Fate is the Hunter, and I gobbled up any of his books that I could find. Some of his other literary works include: Island in the Sky, The High and the Mighty, Soldier of Fortune,and The Antagonists.

The High and the Mighty cover

Flying magazine lists Gann #34 on their list of 51 Heroes of Aviation. Ernest Gann died in 1991.


Collected Stories-John Cheever

“He knew better than anyone the darkness that hides behind the costume of a carefully manicured lawn.”
—John Cheeve