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.
Impromptu fire dancing, Solstice Party 2018: