Missy and I had the unexpected opportunity to spend time again last weekend in Denali Park, driving back to Camp Denali and spending the night there. It was an utter delight, as always, to be with the folks at Camp Denali. One of the things that always amazes me is that the guests are almost as engaging as the extraordinary staff. The place invariably attracts people who are wide open to experience and wonder. It was such a pleasure to sit in that dining room in the wilderness, enjoying a gourmet meal and listening to the joyfully delivered informal day reports of guests and naturalists who spent their day in activities ranging from strolls in the immediate vicinity to strenuous hikes on surrounding ridges.
The guest cabins were all full, so we had the privilege of spending the night in the historic A-frame cabin that Woody and Ginny Wood built for themselves many years ago, when Camp Denali was first established. On this last weekend of the season for Camp Denali, the night was cold, and we built fires in the little woodstove to drive away the chill, but got up several times to go out on the porch and see Denali partially reveal itself as the clouds briefly parted in the wee hours.
It has been, as always for me this time of year, an unexpected pleasure to see the stars again, as the night sky gets dark after months of continuous light. There's a sadness in the waning summer, of course, and a bracing for the onslaught of winter, but also a relief that the frenetic pace that accompanies summer here is about to give way to quieter time, shorter days, longer nights, more sleep.
The thing I missed most about Alaska in our brief time away, other than its people, was the drama of the changing seasons. That drama is most evident around the equinoxes, both spring and fall. Even after 30 years in the far North, I am both shocked and energized by the breathtaking speed at which the daylight changes, the seasons transform the landscape, and the character of daily life is transformed. I'm always more than ready, impatient, for the transformation in spring, and invariably torn between sadness, relief, and excitement by the all-too-brief pageantry of fall. It's spectacular in the forest around our house in Fairbanks, and awe-inspiring on the wide open tundra of Denali Park.
These three new images are acrylic on paper, handled like watercolor. They are responses to what we saw, and what we felt, on this last trip into the Park and on our weeklong stay at the East Fork cabin last month. As so often with my small works on paper, they will probably serve not only as paintings in themselves, but as studies for larger canvases that try to probe even deeper into my memories of a time, place, and experience.