A few years ago I wrote a story inspired by John Haines titled “A Walk in the Woods With John Haines”. As his words and thoughts continue to provide guidance over the years, I return to this piece and update the images and feelings to reflect the experiences that have defined me.
Returning from an Alaskan retreat, I am different.
Nothing earth shattering and most likely not noticeable to most people I come into contact with.
Back home, the sky has not changed, the trees stand tall against the summer blue, and the grass is coarse from overdue rain.
Obligations, bills, demands, job – waited at the front door for the week to pass and my return.
Emails arrive in the overflowing inbox and the phone still rings.
Lines form at registers waiting for morning coffee.
But something is different.
I left here in a chaotic state, doubts of the pathway I built and have stayed on, despite the uncertainty. I was clinging to the next day or week, hoping that it will be different from today, that if I just hold-out, the answers and next direction will reveal themselves. I had become complacent and stagnant.
How many years was I going to relinquish control of my path to outside forces with unknown names and unfamiliar faces?
Something is different now that my feet are on the ground here. What happened up there in the Alaskan wilderness?
I walk to the backyard and stand on the cement patio with coffee. The morning sun rays begin to touch treetops and the golden glow is stark against the deep blue sky. But I do not see this and I do not hear the ravens playing in the fields beyond the hill.
Lost in some thought I cannot place, my eyes close and I am back in Alaska with a river stretching to the base of distant mountains. I am flying above glaciers and standing so close I can taste the cold. I am riding an ATV through forest and open fields until I stand overlooking the river valley and and lose myself to the silence, the beauty, and the immense landscape.
That is what I see now that I am back home. Now that I have returned from an Alaskan retreat, the burdens I left here with have been replaced with nature, tangible things I can see, touch, smell, taste. Things that will my mind and push everything else out. In return for this gift, I am more silent, thinking before I speak, and keeping more calm and control of myself as I attempt to cope with the present and push for a different future that I create.
On 2017-08-08, we stepped out of comfort zones and took to the air for a flightseeing tour with Alaska Air Service, based in Anchorage, AK. Our pilot was Bill who is also the owner. We flew into the Chugach Mountains and were treated to awesome views of the Knik and Colony Glaciers. Also included was a gravel landing with a hike to get closer to the water, glacier, and icebergs.
- Knik Glacier / Chugach Mountains Flightseeing Tour
We spent August 7th with Glacier View ATV Tours at mile 99 of Glenn Highway in Glacier View, Alaska. We were fortunate to have the trails to ourselves and be guided by Tommy, one of the owners, for 2.5 hours of ATV riding through open fields, forest and to the top with a view over the Matanuska valley. The weather was perfect for trailing riding with temperatures in the 60’s, no rain, and no wind.
If you are in Alaska and looking for a fun way to spend time in the Alaskan wilderness, these is a great outfit to go with. Tommy is down to earth, easy to talk with, and provides a lot of knowledge and history of the area. One detail we were impressed with is Tommy stopped a few times to pick-up trash near the trail.
On a recent trip to Alaska, we visited Whittier. Accessible by auto through a one-way tunnel also servicing the railroad, tourism and fishing call people to visit and enjoy the gateway to Prince William Sound. Of note is the Buckner Building, a remnant of WWII that is off-limits.
Into the rainforest we walk
with soft steps, silent voices, and open hearts.
Morning rain seeps through the tall trees
and the mountain side is shrouded in fog.
Deeper in we cross wooden bridges
over creeks following animal tracks,
we examine stones laced with scars,
and we marvel in being here, part of something larger.
In the afternoon, the sun clears the valley,
glaciers and avalanche debris will appear.
Recently resurrected the domain and website at http://www.mountainsandice.com that will focus on stories, poetry, photography and anything related to Alaska. Two poems were posted today for your reading pleasure.
From the collection “Beyond the Border Kingdom“, the 13th and final poem.
threads hang openly
defining a life – what happens
when they are pulled
does the puppet fall?
who will mend the broken legs?
one by one the headlights pass
through silence and growing fog
hidden unknown faces travel into
hidden unknown places.
the shadows that follow,
what fills the void and vacuum
the consumed space where light has left,
has forgotten the open fields?
give me truth
give me strength
to expose and kill
the false deity within.
one last look back
before the stampede begins
my feet in rubber boots
sink into virgin snow.
the tree line leads
thoughts grow beyond the river
past meadows and tundra
to the peak forever in a storm.
the trail ahead is obscured
whoever passed first
their footsteps have been lost
to the landscape…
miles of silence
the setting sun and the cold orange and blue.
unknown moments never experienced
– things I will never know
the harvest moon covers
open fields of wheat and barley,
the open sea, wild horses –
people around me circle closer
the space I have built
is shrinking, collapsing
I must leave, it is my time to leave.
black outline suspended in flight
one last moment here before my time passes.
the sea slows. light bends across
our eyes. rocks glisten.
events beyond control
the long black paved road
simmers in the distance
apparitions rise and fall.
the barriers erected soften
the layers peel away
exposing the true self within.
who are you when all else is gone?
what is left when each layer falls?
above the blackening sea
merged into the shoreline
a pale hand moves methodically
over the flame releasing
jasmine into the room.
rain blankets the landscape.
over time the room and rain become one
as the being within falls into a temporal sleep.
and the suns fingers extend to me.
As nature becomes essential to daily life and getting through the chaos, I have been thinking about John Haines. Some of my most-often used quotes come his book “Fables and Distances” and so I have started reading it again and am reminded the impact his writing has had on my outlook in life.