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The other day, our neighbor and seasoned bush pilot, Don, flew us out to his cabin on a lake 70 miles or so to the west of Fairbanks. It was like riding on the back of an angel. So phenomenally beautiful. Here is a poem I’m working on to commemorate the experience. Thank you Don!

Float Plane

We are strapped in,
headsets tuned
to filter out
the single engine’s roar,
to funnel in
our crackling voices
and the buzz
of mosquitoes
dive-bombing our eyes
before being sucked out
the window to oblivion.

A muskrat swims along
the pond’s edge,
keeps an eye on Alpha Papa,
our blue and white metal bird
whirling, turning,
lifting 1300 feet,
flying due west
through islands
of pearlescent cumulous
floating in a sea of blue
toward the sun.

Below, a physical map
of The Interior curves up
south into the Alaska Range
where Denali shivers
in her white anorak,
gazes down at a sprinkling
of Alaska’s 3 million lakes
and burnt-out taiga
as far as a mountain can see.

At Iksgiza Lake,
the water mirrors
sky and clouds,
a surface so smooth,
our pilot says,
it’s harder to land on
than chop or ice.

Near the dock
two tundra swans glide by,
a wood frog growls like a bear
from the dwarf birch and spruce
surrounding us, and we hear
a familiar buzz.

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27 thoughts on “Float Plane

  1. What a fun way to describe a float plane trip! I have taken so many of those in my lifetime and all in coastal AK. None of my experiences ever felt like “riding on the back of an angel,” prolly due to the intense conditions – but your poetry would most likely smooth it out for any weather.
    Also, I really liked the notion of “Denali shivers in her white anorak” – very culturally appropriate and powerful picture. Thanks again for these wonderful little gifts, Susan. I hope we get to meet up before you leave Fairbanks again.
    xoxoxox

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    • Hi DB and thanks for stopping by. I’m gonna FB/text you about meeting sometime next week…

      The thing about the riding on the back of an angel was more about the exquisite view than about a lack of bumpiness and vibrato. Because it was a windless day and the air and water perfectly still, the reflection of the clouds in the lakes below was heavenly. I’ve never seen anything like it on any of my many flights in the world and maybe never will again. ❤ 🙂

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    • Jilanne, what we heard sounded exactly like a bear growl, slow and scary. When we asked Don about the sound he said, “Wood frog.”

      I found the video below, but what we heard sounded nothing like these frogs, which makes me wonder now if, dang, it was actually a bear and Don was trying to keep us calm. We did leave shortly after that, and as we pulled up into the air there were a couple of bears, black ones I think, further down along the lake. Yikes!

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  2. How fortunate we were to have a joy-ride and to experience Alaskan nature and wilderness from the flight-deck of Alpha Papa; and on terra firma at the lake-side cabin. Don was an Angel for making it happen and so safely. Always a joy to be with you on these adventures my dear and ever so special when you capture the moments of our joy in your poetry and writing. ❤ ❤ ❤

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    • Interesting…as in stuck in the wilderness? Chained to the land? limited by the climate, the terrain, the isolation, the loneliness? The funny thing is it doesn’t feel at all like that to me…maybe because I’m free to come and go. It’s more like feeling so overwhelmed by the vastness that I need to concentrate on the small stuff, to narrow my perspective just to function. I’ll keep your comment in mind, though. Thank you.

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