Fire Dancing at Solstice – McCarthy Alaska 2018

There’s epic mountains and breaching whales and raging rivers and scary bears and grizzled men with beards, but one of the natural features that most intrigues me about Alaska is the light, specifically the yuge swings of light and dark. The weirdness of the solar cycles gives the place a certain mystical feel.

Most of the year, this area of Alaska is gaining or losing about 5 minutes of light a day. Things are always changing, always in flux. I never feel like anything is static or settled. Perhaps it’s a Buddhist-y thing, for me, or maybe it’s just the nature of nature itself, a part of life that we tend to forget in modernity, where we spend a good deal of our lives indoors and/or in front of screens, mostly disconnected from the natural world we evolved to live in. Whatever the reason, it feels refreshingly primitive to me to be in a place as dynamic as Alaska, especially on summer solstice where you can stay out all night and never need a flashlight — or a flash for the camera.

The working title for my novel is Under The North Sun, and light, heat, and day light are among the themes that have consistently inspired me. Characters have changed, plot lines have been discarded, but my exploration of nature has been a constant point of reference. For a while I tried thinking of the natural  world as its own character, because I didn’t want to conceptualize it as merely the “setting” — after all, the greater natural world is just as dynamic as the rest of us, and in Alaska, it’s far more than a mere background. It’s truly a force around which we organize our lives.

I dropped the idea of nature as a character, because it felt a bit too anthropocentric. I don’t want to overly personalize nature. I want to take it on her own terms. As such, I haven’t quite found the right way to describe my literary relationship to the natural world, so for now it remains a mystery. And maybe that’s all for the better.


Solstice McCarthy Alaska 2018
Summer Solstice Party, 2018


Summer Solstice McCarthy Alaska
The moon over Fireweed Mountain, Summer Solstice 2018, June 21, 2 AM – no flash required

Impromptu fire dancing, Solstice Party 2018:


Published by

Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

3 thoughts on “Fire Dancing at Solstice – McCarthy Alaska 2018”

  1. Also, I liked what you said about nature being so important that she/it is almost like a character. It reminded me of The Shipping News, set in Newfoundland, which feels that way. And is one of my very favourite books. Then this week when going through the draft of my most recent section, my husband said, ‘You need to make more of the weather, it’s so important it’s almost like a charachter,’ and that reminded me of your post too. For my book, food and heat (and rain, wind and storms in monsoon) are important elements that will hopefuly make it come alive for the reader so that their interest is held, they feel like they are there (a bit), and the emotional aspects will therefore have more resonance. Well here’s hoping anyway! Wishing you all the best with your book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, and I need to read more Annie Proulx….One thing I like about my little Alaskan community here is that we all seem to have the commonality of valuing physical space and physical community. As we progress deeper into virtual spaces/community it seems more crucial than ever to cultivate physical connectedness. We did, after all, evolve to be physically connected with others and with nature, a topic on which I could probably drone on for a while. Suffice it to say I’m glad to connect with a like-minded comrade who appreciates physical space….And good catch from your husband. =)

      Liked by 1 person

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