Point Hope: Point Hope, Alaska
Solar winds disrupting Earth’s magnetic field cause the Aurora Borealis. They are often most spectacular on finger-numbingly cold nights in the depths of winter.
Point Hope is an Inupiaq Eskimo village of about 750 inhabitants located 200 miles above the Arctic Circle on Alaska’s North Slope. Originally known as Tikigaq (index finger for the slender peninsula that once extended into the Chukchi Sea before erosion took it away), the area is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in North America. Subsistence hunting for caribou and Bowhead Whales continues to be an important part of the culture. With no roads existing beyond the village, the local airport (lit up in the above photo) is an important lifeline to and from the outside world.
…the aurora borealis flaming coldly overhead,
…the stars leaping in the frost dance,
…the land numb and frozen under its pall of snow…
Jack London – from The Call of the Wild, 1903
– Jack London (1876-1916) was one of the first authors to become wealthy writing fiction. Mostly self-educated, after stints as a hobo, a sailor, and 30 days in the Erie County Penitentiary in the state of New York for vagrancy, he made his way to California where he attended high school and began writing in earnest.
At First Sight: Sandhill Cranes, Northern British Columbia
Sandhill Cranes choose partners based on graceful mating dances and remain together for life.
…and our graves will be like two lovers washing
their clothes together
In a laundromat
If you will bring the soap
I will bring the bleach.
Richard Brautigan (from Romeo and Juliet, 1970)
– Raised in abject poverty, Richard Brautigan (1935-1984) was struggling to gain a foothold in San Francisco’s literary scene when, in 1967, he published Trout Fishing in America. The counter-culture novel catapulted him to international fame. A year later he solidified his reputation with In Watermelon Sugar.
Feather Fan: Junco
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.
William Wordsworth – Intimations of Immortality, 1807
Along with Samuel Coleridge, Wordsworth (1770-1850) is credited with founding English Literature’s Romantic Age. He was the country’s Poet Laureate from 1843 until his death.
Amber Eyes: Arctic Fox, Point Hope, Alaska
The thick, soft fur of the Arctic Fox is the most efficiently warm of any land mammal.
It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.
David Attenborough – BBC Life documentary series, 2009
Knighted in 1985, Sir David Attenborough turned 90 in 2016. The world’s most recognized narrator of natural history films, he remains in possession of amazing vitality.
Winter Hunt: Saker Falcon, Kustai National Park, Mongolia
Prized by falconers for their beauty and power, Saker Falcons are endangered due to black market trading and habitat loss. They are the national bird of Mongolia.
(From) The Winter’s Tale
Jog on, jog on, the foot-path way,
And merrily hent the stile-a:
A merry heart goes all day,
Your sad tires in a mile-a.
William Shakespeare – lines from The Winter’s Tale, 1623
In otherwise good health, Shakespeare (1564-1616) died 3 days shy of 52. Many of his plays were published posthumously. According to one source, Shakespeare’s death followed a night of heavy drinking with Ben Johnson and Michael Drayton. An apocryphal tale or not, all of his plays contain references to drink.
Snow Dancers: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia – 2016
At over 4,400 feet in altitude, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, is the world’s coldest national capital city. Lows of -20° F and lower – sometimes much lower – are common.
She was as beautiful a dancer
as he was a fly caster.
Norman Maclean – A River Runs Through It, 1976
Norman Maclean (1902-1990) was 70 when he began writing A River Runs Through It and Other Stories. Rejected by every major publishing firm, the novella and two accompanying short stories were finally accepted by Chicago University Press where Maclean had taught in the Department of English. The book, which was almost instantly recognized as a classic, became the first piece of fiction the CU Press published.
Fat Boys: McKay’s Buntings, Sarichef Island, Alaska. The whitest song bird in North America, McKay’s Buntings primarily nest on just two remote islands in the Bering Sea, St. Mathews and Hall. In wintertime, they visit other islands as well as a few locations on Alaska’s mainland. Their total population is just a few thousand birds.
Happy the Man
Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He who can call today his own:
He who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Be fair or foul or rain or shine
The joys I have possessed, in spite of fate, are mine.
Not Heaven itself upon the past has power,
But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour.
John Dryden – Happy the Man, 1685
So great was John Dryden’s (1631-1700) influence that England’s Restoration Period has been called The Age of Dryden. In 1668 he was named England’s first Poet Laureate.