Bittersweet: sweet with a bitter aftertaste; arousing pleasure tinged with sadness.
We only have 17 miles of roads in Fort Yukon and they are all dirt. This is a trail made by 4-wheelers and used by snow-goes in the winter. There are many times more trails than roads and you are free to start your own. Of course, the distinction between roads and trails is rather blurred. The nearer trees are poplar, or cottonwood. You can see the white bark of an aspen stand farther down the trail.
The bulldozer rests behind my cabin. It hasn’t moved in the past six years – it just sits there sinking into the earth and rusting into oblivion. Time has stolen its headlights and our harsh winters have stripped most of its once cheery yellow paint.
A machine built to subdue the earth – now an ignominious perch for birds.
Luna. Stare at the full moon too long and madness will pursue you to the grave, or so the ages old myth goes. My teacher, Mrs. Britt, told me that tale in the 4th grade and seven years later I met the living proof of it – my high school chemistry teacher.
I can remember thinking about that myth off and on for years and the fascination of it might have motivated me to buy my first telescope (with my own hard-earned savings). When I was 13, I used it to photograph the lunar phases. I even printed my own photographs and entered them in the science fair. My teacher gave me a disappointing grade for it. He thought I had bought the pictures somewhere. Well, I told him a thing or two about how I had used my own telescope and developed my own film and printed every one of those superb pictures and they weren’t pictures at all they were photographs. He changed my grade to an A+. I was pretty proud of my daring self. I still am.
Now, I love the sky. Moon, clouds, fog, it doesn’t matter. And the Arctic Circle comes with some unexpected benefits. Sunrise and sunset take much longer up here. It has to do with the angle the sun takes as it slides below the horizon. It prolongs the display of colors, significantly so. The affect is akin to watching live action taking place in slow motion, or like being able to make your children move at half speed while you try to photograph them. Nice!
There is a color cast in this photograph that comes from the sun which was setting to the west even as the moon was rising in the east. I adjusted the contrast a smidge, clipped the highlights a little and desaturated the image somewhat. That’s all. I’ve added this to the Galleries/Arctic Sky page where you can see a larger version of it.
More willow. Why not? It’s everywhere. There is another photograph of this spot in Galleries/Boreal Forest. One day I took my 8th graders out and we picked the cotton. We tried separating some of it by hand, then researched other ways to do it. We’ll test those this week. Our goal is to collect enough to make designer paper using a blend of the willow and paper pulp.
Blue, blue sky, like that of my childhood, that few are old enough to remember. A sky so crisp that if you could fold it, you might leave creases in the air.
It was afternoon and the golden-leaved canopy shimmered in the light atop their spindly masts. Aspen seem to love it here but the spare and unforgiving soil doesn’t treat them well. Few attain much height or girth. Perhaps they are more impressive in other regions.
But ours are delicate and beautiful, and I enjoy watching them play in the sky.
North of town, out toward the confluence of the Sucker River and the Porcupine, I happened upon a grove of young aspen late in the afternoon. I have passed this way once before, in winter. The trees were bereft of leaves then and rose out of deep snow. But not today.
The wood is silent and still. There is but the faintest breath of wind from farther north but even so the aspen leaves, alert as sentries, detect it and tremble, as is their wont. Many have already fallen and lie mingled among the young willows that clutter the wood.
Soon, the forest floor will snuggle below the white blanket that always comes, always comes, and slumber undisturbed but for the passage of the hare.