Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Seasons change quickly in Alaska.  Although a common observation of the seasons in the Great Land goes, “Early Winter, Mid-winter, Late Winter and Next Winter.”  It’s really not quite that bad, as evidenced by the fact things thaw enough for a couple of months that the Alaska Department of Transportation can impede traffic on the highways with construction.

However, when the seasons shift gears it’s a speed-shift, with very little pause for the use of a clutch.

When I left home to visit my dad in Arizona for a little less than three weeks – October 17th through November 3rd – the temperatures were still climbing into the upper forties and the weather was clear and beautiful.  There were still a few straggling leaves on the trees, and nothing was frozen over.  Creeks flowed, ponds were open, and trumpeter swans dotted most of the marsh waters along the trip to Anchorage.

When I got home on the November 4th, the temperatures were climbing into the lower twenties, and a thin layer of snow covered the ground.  Our recording thermometer showed the ambient temperature had dropped to -9 F at one point.  Ka-thump!  Winter has arrived.

Along with the cooler temps, we’ve had snow.  In the past ten days we’ve had about eighteen inches of the light, fluffy stuff.  I’m not complaining.  I like winter; the cold, the snow.  (I know, I’m sick, but there you have it.)

One of my favorite conditions in winter is the perfect combination of clear weather and a full moon on fresh snow.  This past Friday we had just that.  The snow reflects the moonshine efficiently enough that it literally seems like day.  The big difference is the light is surreal.  There are no colors, only shades of grey and black.  Depth perception, even when looking at close objects, can be deceptive.  One looks at a stand of spruce and has to honestly ask, “Which of those spires is closer?”  The answer is found by looking at the shadows, not the trees themselves.  Nights like that make for perfect walking.

Years ago, I used to work a schedule of a week on/a week off, 12-hour shifts.  The shifts alternated between working 5 am to 5 pm and 5 pm to 5 am.  “Swinging around” from the night shifts often found me awake in the middle of the night.  In the winter, during a full moon, it was the perfect time to go for a walk, then come home to warm up and write.

Winter’s Night Walk

It’s the quietude
And solace that appeals
When hollows reflect
In light that’s deep.
In late-night winter’s woods awake,
When most the world around’s
I like to walk then.
With cheeks that glow
Against the wind,
With breath that floats
And glides away...
When daytime rules of light
And snow ghosts jump
From tracks I lay.
During a frigid, full and frosted moon,
As it leers in eerie light,
Black outlines cast
On blue-tinged snow
Create a two dimensioned sight.
Where distance perceived
And specters seen
Are not as they appear
In the whitewashed world
That’s not quite clear...
Of a lonely winter’s night.


  1. It's been a while since I've read any of your poetry. Nice.

  2. this poems explains why I have a dog and take walks with her in the dark in the middle of winter. Hurray, I'm not the only one. aek