The Cutbank and the Tree

16ca2925The days are short now. At 4 pm in the afternoon, the light fades fast and this is what it looks like. I was fascinated by the old cottonwood tree hanging on for its life. Hidden in the trees just beyond it is a cabin in the woods.

Six years ago, Lindsay and I visited this very spot, only back then the bank was a good 50 yards further to the right where today only the river flows. Old Simon, an elder of the village, once told me stories about how the rivers have re-sculpted this land over and over and how people once lived in warm cabins where now only fish swim.

I thought Simon must have exaggerated his stories. I confess, I wasn’t wholly convinced of the power of a river to so dramatically alter the face of the earth in the lifetime of just one man. But Simon was right, and this place is the proof. I am awestruck by the magnitude of the river’s irrepressible impact upon the land. So much change, in only six years!

Next May the Porcupine will break as it always does, impatient to chart a new course to its end, and its currents will pulse with a beat which the earth cannot meet.

I expect the old tree will not survive the coming spring, nor the cabin. Perhaps when they are gone their memories will remain swirling in the eddies of time.

Aurora On My Doorstep

aurora 102616

Geomagnetic storms have been blasting the Earth for the past week, so I stayed up late to see if I could get some pictures.

The older I get, the more relative the term “late” becomes. I took this at 10:30 pm. Shot it from my porch, again. The temperature was 0˚F and I stood there hoping my 30 second exposures were worth the cold slicing through my thin cotton pajamas. I was too tired to get dressed for serious Arctic photography. Shot the pics and hopped into my warm bed.

Below is the same photograph in black and white. I was looking for a spookier rendition.

aurora 102616 bw

This Day In 2014

frost 2014-1237Frost and backlight photographed in 2014. That was a great year for frost and our snow came early.

Yesterday afternoon the first snow of 2016 fell, and it didn’t exactly impress anybody – about a quarter inch. I didn’t even photograph it. The temperature remained below 15˚F today so it’s still on the ground.

We all want winter to get on with it. Halloween is a week away, and Arctic goblins seriously like the snow.

Maggie’s Fry Meat Recipe

16-2800-aspen-treetopsMy Fry Meat Dinner

There is nothing complicated about making fry meat. Sometimes, simplest is best. I bought the moose from my student Albert and my Athabascan friend Maggie told me how to cook it. If you don’t have moose, then try it with anything you have. It’s really, really good.

  •  Moose meat, sliced thin
  • Sliced onions
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cooked rice

Heat a little oil over medium-low heat in pan. Place meat in the oil and season, then add  the onions. Cover and cook slowly until the meat is no longer red and the onions are tender. Uncover, increase heat and fry until brown on both sides. Remove from heat, add the cooked rice and stir together. Serve.

Autumn Trail

16-2798-trailWe 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.

My Bulldozer

16-2824-fall-dozerThe 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.


16-2703-moonriseLuna. 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.