AK 2010, Days 5 & 6
Long-time readers will remember my explorations of Alaska last summer, as recorded on this blog and full of references from Home Ground, an anthology of landscape terminology edited by Barry Lopez. While those adventures included exploration of the fjords, upland forest, glaciers, moraine, and mudflats of Southeastern Alaska, this trip begins in Central Alaska, “the interior.”
[View from nearby bike path]
It’s “flat” around Fairbanks, in an Alaskan sort of way. Skinny spires of black and white spruce pierce the sky. The landscape glows with 1,000 shades of green—wetlands and ponds are light limes and pale yellows, while the darkened “domes” (think foothills, only singular and not leading up to anything) jut up from the land like furry knobs.
[Our neighbor, the pond]
Here at the cabin, my desk is just thirty feet from the edge of a small pond, home to water foul, hawks, flickers, and a muskrat (that I’ve glimpsed so far). Paper and white birch, willow, fireweed, tall grasses, and spruce dot the edges of the water, while dragonflies flit and dart just above the water’s surface. This is boreal forest, which Eva Saulitis defines in Home Ground as:
South of the treeless Arctic tundra, a forest shawl wraps eleven percent of the earth’s northern terrestrial surface. This circumpolar boreal forest is white spruce-dominated, carpeted with lichens, moss, orchids, heaths, quilted with peat bogs, and cut by cold, silty rivers…Boreal forces shape this forest: hot summers of endless daylight; frigid, dark winters; spring floods; permafrost; cycles of insect infestation and fire that decimate vast acreages…Indigenous people, to this day, rely on an intimate knowledge of geography to subsist on these animals and plants…”
Indeed, KB and I have already benefitted from the long daylight (eating supper at 11pm, bed by midnight, trying to sleep through “sunrise” at 4am, then up by 8am). And the fruits: rose hips, high bush cranberry, low bush cranberry, watermelon berry. And the gargantuan gardens: lettuce the size of toddlers, kale as tall as my waist, permafrost-sweetened carrots, parsley leaves as big as rice crackers. Last night’s supper of Alaskan red salmon and local salad greens was a plate full of tastebud heaven.