My summer of light is over. The moon has returned to the northern sky. In August I woke two nights in a row between 1:30 and 3:00 am and walked outside to darkness—or what darkness meant then, the deeper end of dusk—and looked up to see the moon shining like golden cream, my favorite light extending in a circle across the sky. In my last days on the farm at the end of September, it was 9:30 pm and navy blue, it was 11:00 pm and black, it was nighttime and starry.
When school got back in session on August 18th, I started teaching classes in the garden. One day while on a break, I heard a teacher in the faculty lounge say, “Fall is my favorite time of year because it’s dark enough to see the stars again and still warm enough to stay outside to look at them.” All of my life I have loved summer nights for the stars and moon, and it still amazes me that people can live for months on end without this and see it as normal, but I did learn to love the unending light and all its energy. Alaska’s nighttime has a way of breaking open, boldly renewing the world for the second time in twenty-four hours.
Now, after six months and with the return of night, I am driving home to Vermont with my friend Katie, who flew to Fairbanks to make the month-long journey back with me. Throughout the summer I felt the pull towards the east, to know the soils, roots, rivers and mountains of my home more deeply, but Alaska draws me in now, quietly like the sway of wind in trees, like the slow then quick brilliant change from green to red in the tundra. The wild here moves everyday across the land and sky; it knows its beauty and harshness and is calm in it.
When I first arrived in Alaska I wondered if the cities and people infringe upon or accentuate the wild, and what I have found is this: the wild is where the moose and lynx cross the paved road and keep going; it is where I take the road and then leave it. Wild is found in the meetings of animals and people, and in the moments that hold stares without thoughts—that moment before you take out the camera and you watch, looking at each other with curiosity and wonder before going again on your own path. Wild is everything and it is everywhere. As I drive across the country now I see the wild extend through Canada, and down into Montana where I am now, and I know it keeps going, and I will follow it.