Archive for the ‘nature’ Category

a breath in the cold

Listen to the snow

falling on spruce boughs

and eyelashes

Feel the cold’s

icy fingers

reach into my chest

like death

looking for a soul

and coming up empty



a breath in the cold


and forgotten

but beautiful


isn’t that enough?


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We are on the front side of a cold snap, up here in the interior of Alaska. It’s just starting to get cold, with temperatures this morning in downtown Fairbanks hovering right around 30 below Fahrenheit.

The weather forecasters are threatening us with an extended cold spell, indicating temperatures should drop into the negative 40’s in the days ahead, with no break to the cold in the foreseeable future.  But what do they know?

I like the cold.

More honestly, I like extreme weather.

I find that it is nature’s way of reminding us who is in charge, of the limits to our own knowledge, technology, and power.

The wilderness, or natural world, restores my spirit. Whenever I can, I like to go to the mountains, the forests, or sea to do just that.  I don’t get there as often as Id like.

So when the weather turns inclement, it’s like a house call from God.

It redeems me, renews my understanding of my place in the world, and the universe. Despite all our folly, our destruction of ecosystems and life (possibly even our own), weather reassures me the natural world will persevere.

We may not recognize the outcome, or be able to exist in it, but nature and all its intricacies will remain.

And that comforts me.

So today when I come in from the cold, fingers swollen, icicles and frost on my beard, don’t pity me.

Celebrate with me.

For I’ve been dancing with the gods.

In the oh so, glorious cold.

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I’ve been walking to and from work downtown recently, depending on when I go relative to kids going to school or my wife going to work.

Today I rolled out of bed while everybody else was sleeping in, taking off to work in one of those beautiful mid-winter mornings in Fairbanks. New snow had blanketed the town during the late morning, and was still drifting down.

Snow in Fairbanks is unique to any place I’ve lived. It falls silently, rarely accompanied by any wind, and stacks quietly on any limbs, wires, or even twigs; forming an intricately woven organic lace of white on every tree, willow, or blade of grass long enough to still emerge from earlier snows.

It was a beautiful day for a walk, even if just to work.

After work, I headed home via the post office. It gave me an opportunity to cross the Cushman Street Bridge and pass by the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, as opposed to the pedestrian bridge where I usually cross the river.

I grew up Catholic, and although my views on religion stray far from the church these days, I still long for the spirituality and mysticism that can envelop a traditional mass. So much so, as I passed their front door, that I eyed the times for mass and even considered recruiting, or drafting, my family for a Christmas service.

I continued down the path, freshly cleaned of snow (the only disturbance during my early morning walk was the snow blower running over the church’s walks); to the little altar of stone for the Virgin Mary built in the Church’s front yard. The snow had been carefully brushed away from the altar. Within the apse, a statue of the virgin mother stands, surrounded by pots of brightly colored plastic flowers.

The irony of this little scene didn’t escape me.

So I stood there, in the low winter light of the Alaska midday sun, rays filtering through the branches of the snow covered birch trees, snow still softly falling upon me, surrounded by divinity as it was meant to be, in front of a poorly crafted altar to the mother of a god made in mankind’s own image.

I walked on, struck by the folly of man.

Of religion.

Of the obscenity of plastic flowers replacing real ones made by god.

Man does do it better, after all.

Meanwhile the pope is in Rome, railing against the evils of homosexuality, proclaiming how it will be the downfall of humanity.

Not overpopulation.

Not the disease, starvation, war, torture, abuse, injury, rape, environmental ruin or death brought on by overpopulation.

Just homosexuality.


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for a friend

Following your thoughts over the past couple of days,
And am myself swinging between thoughts and feelings of reconciliation and outrage.

Your sensitivity to the needs of the spirit move me,
The morning darkness,
The candles,
The songs,
And prayers.
And make me envious,
Of your skills and knowledge, and wisdom.
Don’t doubt you have those,
Despite the rhetoric from others that do not,
Their view of you,
Spoken behind closed doors,
Is not your true reflection.

In the meantime,
Cling to these days with your son,
He will keep you afloat,
When life threatens to pull you under.
As my daughters have done,
And do,
For me,
When my own shadow,
Threatens to obscure the day,
And the night.

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Playin Alaskan

I’ve been pointed to two good guest columns on Sarah Palin this week by Alaskan writers Seth Kantner, author of “Ordinary Wolves” and Nick Jans, author of “The Last Light Breaking”.

Take the time to check the columns out, both are honest reactions of observant, thinking Alaskans to Sarah and her fundamentalist, faux Marge from Fargo accent, lets develop Alaska so its just like everywhere else shtick.

Seth Kanter “That Sarah Palin is one unreal Alaskan“.

Nick Jans “Sarah Palin: The view from Alaska“.

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where does one begin…….

So many things have happened, yet so few things have changed.

Or is it the other way around?

So few things have happened, yet so many things have changed.

Take your pick.

In any case, I find myself tonight trying to reacquaint myself with my dear friend Discontinuous Permafrost.

For a few months this past winter, DC and I were the best of friends, sharing ideas, observations, and experiences on an almost daily basis.  Since early March, we’ve only communicated once, a brief interlude to let everyone know I was still alive.

So, the question is, where does one pick up in such a relationship?  The silence of the past few months hangs heavily in the space between us, refusing to allow any words I might find from becoming coherent streams of thought.

Raindrops outside the window echo my silence, like my words they fall and are gone, absorbed by the mass  around us.   So small and insignificant,  here then gone, forgotten with the next available ray from the sun.

And so I write tonight, not to communicate any wit or insight into the chaos we call life, but to reach out and reestablish a contact, a friendship, an organizing element of my mind.

Without the rain the air would foul, the trees would perish, and life would end.

Without writing my mind turns upon itself, devouring clarity with each cluttered, random thought.

It is time once again to stand in the rain, to nourish the soul, to let the pen roam where it may, and bleed across the pages the vanishing thoughts of a mind ravished by discontinuous permafrost.

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I normally don’t read the editorials offered by our local newspaper, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. I won’t even comment on them, because it has been so long since I read them regularly that it would be unfair to do so. Suffice to say, at one point they were so mundane that they weren’t worth reading. The letters to the editor, on the other hand, are among the best things about the Fairbanks paper, other than its ability to start a fire in our wood stove. And even that is marginal.

On any given day the letters to the editor can bring tears to your eyes, of laughter generally but also of sorrow. It is the pulse of the community. Faster and more accurately than any news articles, you can tell what is on the community’s mind by delving into the letters. It is the home of the well intentioned, the activists, the lunatic fringe. And today I am one with them all.

It all began on Sunday, when I picked up the editorials section and headed for the letters to the editor. The newspapers editorial read “Powerhouse Nation“. I could not figure out what Powerhouse Nation referred or to what location in left field, or quite possibly right, that title have come from. In the end, curiosity killed the cat and I read the opinion.

If you are from Fairbanks, or not, please take the time to read the opinion at the link above. It is a highly regressive look at natural resource development as the cure to all evils, global, local, and economic. Personally I found it highly arrogant and bordering on racist, but mostly just incredibly shortsighted.

The text of my letter, officially joining me with the lunatic fringe of Fairbanks, is below:

I found your opinion “Powerhouse Nation” in Sunday’s paper at the best disturbing, at the worst regressive and possibly even bigoted.

The truth about our oil economy is that we are nearing the end. In my lifetime, we will be heating our homes, transporting our goods, and wrapping our products in something other than petroleum products. The question we should be asking is, will we be adjusting to that life with, or without, the wilderness Alaska is renown for?

As you correctly stated, the United States has reached its position in the world through its abundant resources. However, our natural resources are growing limited, and will continue to decline. We must look to other resources to keep our economy strong, those are our people, our freedom, and our innovation.

The possible 15 billion barrels of recoverable oil you mentioned would last the United States approximately five and a half years based upon current consumption numbers (http://www.eia.doe.gov/basics/quickoil.html). Five and a half years to put off the inevitable. Five and a half more years of SUV’s, over-sized homes and urban sprawl in exchange for the loss of the polar bear and walrus. For forever.

Regarding the remote village, threatened by being washed away but saved by industry, how very ‘white’ of you. Did you consider that the villagers live there to follow tradition, to the extent possible? Is it possible that some places don’t seek to be developed, that they don’t want to be just like everywhere else? I’m sure many Alaska Natives and Native Americans could expand better than I on how their lands and lives have been improved through development by people selling the same bill of goods you offered in your editorial.

Not everybody sees wilderness as a money making opportunity. Do these people deserve a place in our world today? Or are we destined to the same fate as the walrus and the polar bear?

Ultimately we can’t control the end of oil. But we can control whether future generations have the same access to undeveloped wilderness that we have enjoyed. Will our children look back and curse us over the species and wilderness lost, all for a few more years of us enjoying oil fueled luxury?

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