Friends outside Alaska often ask how we cope with the winter darkness, and I always smile and remind them that over the course of the year, everyone in the world gets the same amount of light--we just get it in different seasons. I don't mind the short days of winter, and in fact delight in the uniquely beautiful, peach-colored light of those brief days. But what I love most is the dramatic sweep of the seasons, the breakneck pace at which the daylight grows as we go from just over three and a half hours of it on the winter solstice in late December to no darkness at all by early May.
The trees leaf out here near the end of the first week in May, most years, and the transformation from bare forest to bright green landscape often takes place in little more than a day. It's breathtaking. The tiny leaves that burst from their buds and unfurl in hours are a brilliant yellow-green that is one of the surest, purest signs that real spring has arrived in the North. They darken and deepen to their summer hue within days, but I love the fleeting, spring-green glow of that exploding, newborn foliage.
These are a few of the birches in my own yard, within a few strides of my studio, giving birth to spring.
Temenos is a Greek word referring to a piece of land set aside as a sanctuary, a sacred precinct or grove. Smith Lake, in the 2000-acre arboretum of woods and trails adjoining the University of Alaska campus, has been such a place for me for almost three and a half decades. It's one of the places I've painted most often, and that I continue to see in new ways season after season and year after year.
Smith Lake fills with all manner of waterfowl during spring migration, and the surrounding spruce forest comes alive with warblers and waxwings. In the fall, there are often rafts of swans on the water just prior to its freezing. I love seeing those birds, but the great thing for me about water as subject matter is its doubling of trees and sky, and the way its stillness testifies to calm.
Temenos, Signs of Spring, and a dozen more of my paintings will be on view in Anchorage this July, in a show of my work at beautiful Blue Holloman Gallery, located at 3555 Arctic Boulevard. Owners Georgia Blue and Gina Hollomon decided we should have the opening reception on the first Thursday, July 3, rather than on the 4th when so many people will be spending time with family or traveling, so if you are in town, please come say hello that evening between 5 and 7 pm. If you miss the opening but are in Anchorage during July, I hope you will be able to see the exhibition, which continues through the 28th.