While working on page 174 of the first draft of my third novel.
In this new terrain, I have to make some adjustments. The Pacific Northwest while sharing many similaritties is not the same as Alaska. Here, the crows are fat and numerous. They are the ones that populate parking lots and call raucously from trees while the ravens I’ve tracked down are sleek and evasive. I rarely hear a raven’s imperial klawock and sturdy voice resounding in cool air like a musician’s wood blocks striking together.
In Juneau ravens ruled. Here, they are secret agents
My new story takes places in a relatively short time period, during a brutal Alaskan cold snap. With an eye and an ear toward words that are kinetic, that carry momentum, I decide to revisit my winter notebooks, or olios, to rediscover that brisk-nip vocabulary that defined my childhood and much of my life.
The honed blades of skates incise into the ice with whispers and the snip, snip, snip sound of sharp shearing scissors. The deep groove of a figure eight forms beneath the coldest of winter skies, jam-spangled with stars. Infinity carved on the slide-rule of a winter pond.
I catalog winter hues: storm whipped snow meringue; bolts of white hills – blue shadows slashing across the brightness; fathom deep indigo; in the Arctic – chalk pastels rubbed over frozen paper; azure, evening periwinkle, cobalt in bare-branch nets; glitter, gloss, gleaming opal swaths.
Cold hisses of snow fall down from laden trees, hit my nape and melt under the collar of my coat.
I recall the whispers, creaks and whistles of wind over ice. And ice heaving, popping, crackling, groaning. Ice tearing apart like brittle cardboard or clanging together like fine china in a sinking ship.
Crunch, crumble, chomp and rumble. The friction of moving across slick surfaces, knowing that you can spin out of control at any moment.
Long ago cautions: The metallic edges of color, sharpened and serrated: Look but don’t touch. Admire the peach furred sides of railings and slats: But don’t lick.
Inside an internal slide show there is the dark stain of overflow on a frozen river. The cross hatching of ski tracks and bird talons. The compressed peppermint of steep slopes.
I take notes. The Writer Elkhound nudges against me, telling me it is time to stretch. I put aside weathered journals and old albums and notebooks filled with weather charts, maps and lists. I shelve the indexes of color, sound and scent.
It is time to test the ice and travel on an unstable keyboard to where winter is closing in and overhead the Aurora Borealis forms a frost-pleated music for the eyes.Time to move on to the next chapter – where the mercury drops and windchill kicks in.