This morning in Fairbanks it's 14º and snowing, for the fourth straight day. The good news is that I should be able to get back on the ski trail this afternoon, after deciding a week ago that I was probably done for the winter. Spring is a fitful, often tortuous passage in Interior Alaska.
I realized, working on this painting, how seldom I have included evidence of my own presence, of any human activity, in my paintings of the Alaska landscape. I think the last time I depicted the tracks of my skis through the snow was a dozen years ago, when I allowed their furrows to cross the slanting shadows of birch trees in a commissioned painting I completed for the thirtieth wedding anniversary of friends. I have long been attracted to paths, trails, all kinds of passageways through every kind of forest, as both route and metaphor, so it strikes me as odd that I haven't mined that image more extensively. One of the great mysteries to me about my own work is how things I notice, admire, puzzle over, and wonder about for years never appear in my paintings, and then one day seem to need exploring.
Bright Tracks combines that beginning journey with the ongoing one of looking into the sun. This is the trail on which I've skied most days all winter, just yards from my back door, along a remnant of the old Fairbanks Exploration Company ditch through which water was pumped from the Chena River to gold mines in Ester, early in the last century. It has been one of the chief joys of this winter to be back on that trail, which I walked and skied for the first time more than a quarter century ago, and so even though I'm ready for spring, I'm happy to have another few days of watching the sunlight glint on my tracks.