On the Noatak with Thoth

Wilderness whups ass. No one is exempt. Ice cracks. Frozen lakes overflow. Bears charge down steep slopes. An inflatable raft springs a leak. A critical box of supplies gets left behind. WTF: where are the matches? Predators large and small are afoot. As are swarms of the most bloodthirsty of all: mosquitoes and no-see-ems. Weather doesn’t care about your flapping rain-fly or your groundcloth pooling with water.

family album

Of the two manuscripts I’ve completed writing and the third one that currently has me in its clutches, wilderness shows up time and again: as an atmospheric character, as a demanding setting. Sometimes chill foreshadowing is found beneath tangled tree limbs – that frisson that we have all felt puckering our skin, seeping into our thoughts as we stand below towering buildups of cumuli nimbus, or as we glance a swift peripheral movement while wind stirs and shifts the world around us.

The Writer Elkhound –
j. laster

Today the Writer Elkhound accompanies me on a walk. She has a nose for weather and follows tracks through undergrowth with ease. She whiffles and snorts and gives short ecstatic barks as geese zoom over head or a hummingbird hovers near by. She calls my attention to the small details.

Unalakleet Picnic –
family album

And it is those kind of details I recall and collect and put into idea, or Olio, notebooks that bring together all kinds of disparate information: weather patterns, news events, fashions from a particular era, comics and books and music – all from a specific time or place.

Sisters camping by an unnamed lake – family album

Conjuring campsites and high country terrain takes me into the heart of a story.

Earliest memories with my mother – angler, mushroom gatherer, storytellerfamily album

The creak of a seaside forest and the push of wind against tent canvas forms the soundtrack of my primary experience as a human on earth. And those sensory bits also find their way into notebooks and ultimately into the pages of a new tale.

Brother at day’s end, at lake’s edge – family album

Wilderness provides shelter if you know where to look. Sustenance if you know where to cast. And for those who listen – an incandescent narrative.

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