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.
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.
Cold for so long, unable to speak,
yet your mouth seems framed
on a cry, or a stifled question.
Who placed you here, and left you
to this lonely eternity of ash and ice,
and himself returned to the dust
fields, the church and the temple?
Was it God—the sun-god of the Incas,
the imperial god of the Spaniards?
Or only the priests of that god,
self-elected—voice of the volcano
that speaks once in a hundred years.
And I wonder, with your image before me,
what life might you have lived,
had you lived at all—whose companion,
whose love? To be perhaps no more
than a slave of that earthly master:
a jug of water on your shoulder,
year after stunted year, a bundle
of reeds and corn, kindling
for a fire on whose buried hearth?
There were furies to be fed, then
as now: blood to fatten the sun,
a heart for the lightning to strike.
And now the furies walk the streets,
a swarm in the milling crowd.
They stand to the podium, speak
of their coming ascension …
Through all this drift and clamor
you have survived—in this cramped
and haunted effigy, another entry
on the historian’s dated page.
Under the weight of this mountain—
once a god, now only restless stone,
we find your interrupted life,
placed here among the trilobites
and shells, so late unearthed.
John Haines, “The Ice Child” from For the Century’s End: Poems 1990-1999
For my next trip to Alaska I will be going through Arctic Wild which is based out of Fairbanks. They recently revamped their website with more information and photos. Please visit and take a look – http://arcticwild.com
As summer has become fall and most days have the aura and feel of winter, the climbing season and kayaking come to an end for this year. Now it is time to look ahead and begin planning for next summer when the sun returns.
Here are some blog entries from Alpine Ascents as their last climb of Mt. Rainier recently completed.
Here are blog entries from Arctic Wild, based on Fairbanks, Alaska.
I first learned of John Haines while taking a class at the Loft Literary Center a few years ago. From the first poem I was hooked. I have every book of his, some first editions, and one signed that I was fortunate to find.
Mr. Haines also wrote many essays about nature, the world at large, and his view from a small rustic cabin located outside of Fairbanks, AK.
Mr. Haines was born on June 29, 1924 and passed away on March 2, 2011. I sadly never got the chance to meet him in person, but continue to read his books and write pieces about him and be inspired by the raw, simple, and powerful pieces he created.
I am particularly fond of “Owl in the Mask of the Dreamer” for poetry and “Fables and Distances” for his essays.
Below are his most easily found books on Amazon.
It’s been 3-months since I reluctantly returned home from Alaska. Which is slowly becoming a second home. Not just physically, but within my heart, soul, and mind. The sun rising over mountains, setting behind triangular peaks, and glacial lakes surrounded by boulders, has wrapped around every thought I have and tries to influence every action. I miss nothing specifically – but I miss being there, being in Alaska, being away from the concrete city.
Who knows where life’s path will take me, or if the decisions I make will lead back to Fairbanks, Anchorage, Palmer, or Hope.
When I look at where I am from a distance, trying to view myself as an outsider, where is this being most at peace? What placates the rampant thoughts and veins running hot with caffeine? Alaska.
As I enter the eight chapter of this life, and know there are a few more to go before I pass to the next, I feel that Alaska is not done with me yet. She has much to show and to teach me, and I am the eager student of the land of sun, water, ice, and wilderness.