…a whiteness that flowed
on the ground
and froze into mist that
enveloped the world.

-John Haines

At this edge of the world the light is quiet today. No golden flame shoots across a lavender sky. And on snow-blanketed birch branches bursting through the spruce, the peach glow is noticeably absent. Instead, the monochromatic white, white, white outside is painfully beautiful…and silent. The only sound other than a bush plane taking off on skis and the hum of Alaska Airlines’ 1:40 to Anchorage, is my own breathing, and that seems to be slowing down, breath by breath, into nothingness. Am I slipping into hibernation?

I’ve already dropped 5,000 IUs of D3 and a multi-vite large enough to make a small moose dance, and I’ve been sitting in front of my daughter’s happy light for the required half-hour reading Disappearance: A Map, by Sheila Nickerson, one of Alaska’s great writers and a former poet laureate.

Again this morning, a bright and silent sky after another frost. Yesterday I saw few birds–three sparrows in mid-afternoon, one sparrow a little later, and two crows. No robins. No ravens. No gulls. This morning, so far, no birds.

I read those lines over and over and when I reach the last birds, each time, an avalanche of drowsiness pulls me down into a spasm of sleep/jerk awake. I have two choices: go back to bed or take a walk. Dream about birds, or shuffle through the snow until I find one.

Piling on so many layers is work, but critical: flannel-lined jeans, flannel shirt, wool sweater, wool scarf long enough to wrap around my face, a boiled wool cap from Sweden, my 800 fill power down parka, snow boots guaranteed to keep toes warm to negative 40 and, finally, my glove liners and gloves. I stuff my camera in a pocket and waddle out into the white.

It’s WHITE, very, except for a thousand black spruce straddling the road. And it’s empty. Even shadows are missing. This breaks my heart. If “alone” can be a verb, that’s what I’m doing, alone-ing my way. crunch by crunch, through white emptiness, looking for something awesome enough to keep me awake.

A raven cries out from somewhere. I notice my breathing is now raspier and in counterpoint to the crunch, and the crunch morphs into the sound of two sled dogs barking from their rooftops. Is it because I’m walking on snowplow tracks, or are real dogs joining in on the sudden flurry of sounds?



A metallic scraping behind me enters the symphony! My breathing speeds up as I zip across the road, and slows down after the snow plow passes. I watch until both time and the yellow dot disappear and I realize how awake I am in the middle of this white gallery of experiences that can only happen here/now on a lonely road in Alaska.





Poem excerpt from “The Dream of February.” Copyright © 1993 by John Haines.

18 thoughts on “Into the White

  1. What a drop into another experience. I both am enthralled by the writing and little bit afraid for you. I love solitude, love it, and have lived months with little interaction — but — where you are is so other worldly, and I am awed and a bit frightened by the wilderness you are in. I have never been in that type of white winter-land — maybe a bit when skiing and there was no sun only fog and snow. But I had company and a trail and so much sound of laughter and people around me.
    Good writing. Moved me places.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Katie. Sometimes I do feel a bit uncomfortable, but I don’t know if it’s fear or unfamiliarity. Here, in the winter we’re absolutely surrounded by vastness, normally brilliantly hued for about an hour each day because the wee bit of sun is crazy intense. Today there was basically no color, other than a yellow snow plow and the dark spruce, of course. I felt vulnerable and in awe at the same time. I love and fear this place. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Achingly lovely, Susan. You have a way of bringing readers inside the story – I sat there nodding after rereading the same sentence, donning layers of winter garments, and crunching along in an almost white winter sanctuary. Thank you for reminding me what I love most about the northern woodlands.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s so beautiful, Susan. Thanks so much for sharing. I feel as though I got to see it through your eyes, and felt the chill, even though it is summer in Cape Town. I hope you have a lovely new year.


  4. Like how your prose style and tone–the narrative distance feels compressed and slowed, and therefore seemingly affected by the terrain, the landscape–your encounter in this space of such timelessness–and how you are able to then alter it, adjust its calibrations when faced with the hums and buzz–signs of human encroachment—then back again to your original pulse for the closing beat. I felt so present in it, within it…thank you.


    • Appreciate that you could be present for this one, jd. Means a lot to me to carry others into a fresh place. Reading Alaskan writers and becoming friends with a few has altered my perceptions, allowed me to see some of the hidden things here. Looking forward to reading more of your adventures in 2015. Have a great new year! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sweet! I’m sitting in a cabin in the Sierras this morning. The wind through the fir trees sounds like jets taking off. The wind chill is below zero. This California girl doesn’t have enough clothes to go out before it warms up a bit. If I did, I’d be out there. Or maybe I’d still be sitting at the kitchen table and looking out at the world with my cup of tea. Either way, I’m loving your world from afar. Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a beautiful ambience and sharing. I haven’t been to Alaska, but now I feel that I am traveling there and existing right along with you in the white, otherworldly place of constant snow. Also I enjoy the sharing of what you are reading. Happy New Year! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s