color, movement, light

Summer Tundra Valley
A green view of the front yard. In a week or so, it will be burnished red and gold.

I’m sitting in the Seattle airport watching a circus of baggage wagons, maintenance vehicles, and security personnel trying to corral a big black dog that’s running loose on the tarmac. The dog is dodging these golf cart cowboys at a full gallop, and folks are shooting video out the window. This could hardly be further from the quiet place I inhabited just a few days ago.

Fireweed in the Swale
Fireweed in the grassy swale

One of the first things we did when we came out from the cabin on Saturday was make a shopping stop at one of the enormous Fred Meyer stores in Fairbanks. It was so strange. At first, it felt like my eyeballs’ rods and cones couldn’t get it together to create human beings out of all those crazy colors and shapes. Such an alarming disarray of people! Then it became fascinating. I sat down in the furniture section and couldn’t get up. The overwhelming diffusion coalesced into so many details: the big man spilling over the seat of his sit-down scooter, glowering under a dirty hat and not moving for the longest time; the mom trying to organize her three kids, one girl in black and white striped pants and a brightly flowered top skittering sideways while two smalls rocked the shopping cart back and forth; a skinny old guy who shuffled over to the display of pillows on sale and the stranger who helped him reach up to pluck the one he wanted. It went on and on.

Stewart found me sitting and staring like this and he laughed and took a picture: “You look happy. You don’t have a thought in your head!”

Zoned Out in Fred Meyer
Not quite ready for Fred Meyer

No thoughts at all! I think I look high. You can get that way without drugs. Just go far enough into the woods for two weeks or more.

Even though I’ve been back in “civilization” for a couple of days, I’m not 100% ready to move out of that wordless space, so this morning — after all night on a red eye from Fairbanks, now waiting for a connection to SFO — I thought I’d just post these few photos from our time at the cabin and then back in town.

Stewart, lucky guy, is hiking back out to the cabin today. He’ll be out there for a few more weeks and then home in September.

Low Bush Cranberries or Lingonberries
It’s a great year for fat, red lowbush cranberries — or lingonberries — take your pick.
Giant Mushrooms
Also a year for many mushrooms big as dinner plates (Stewart’s hand for scale). Anyone know what kind of fungus this is? [Update: I think it’s a Shingled Hedgehog, Sarcodon imbricatus.]
Light in the Gorge
One day, rain in the river gorge looked like erupting light.
Moose with a Bass Guitar
Back in Fairbanks, a moose with a bass! (We saw some regular moose, too.)
Linda's Dahlias
One day I’ll do a post all about Linda’s garden. For now, a few dahlias.
Chena River
Last night in Fairbanks, the quiet light on a sleepy Chena River.

Soon, I’ll be posting a few things we worked on while we were away: Stewart’s story about building the cabin and some experiences with the animals around us.

I want to say it’s good to be back, but I don’t know what it is. It’s a black dog that got loose at the airport. You can see how much it loves to run, how in this moment all it wants is not to be caught.

16 thoughts on “color, movement, light

  1. I didn’t expect you for a couple weeks, so this is a treat for upcoming treats.
    I always remember that summer you shared so many shots. The one of shells (was it?) under a glass top table.
    Welcome back.


    1. Thank you! It was a short time at the cabin for me because I took the ten-day trip to get there! I remember that summer, too. It was 2009. I took a road rip from Denali down to Homer. It would have been fun to have this blog then. I think the photo you’re thinking of was the restaurant in Seldovia that had, yes, shells and little bits of things (mermaid dolls, fishing lures) under the table glass.


  2. Great last line. And such good photos!! That Fred Meyers was probably the least gentle way to come back. Ouch.

    My guess on the mushroom is The Old Man of the Woods, or Strobilomyces “floccopus,” one of the better mushroom names out there.

    Welcome back, Shae!


    1. Fred Meyer was crazy, but I’m used to that place. If it were Walmart, I might have had more serious issues.

      So as soon as you gave me a mushroom name (you know me) I had to go and check it out. I don’t think the Old Man of the Woods hangs out around our cabin — at least not in the form of a fungus. I believe what we have here is the “Hawk’s Wing” or “Shingled Hedgehog” mushroom, which goes by the Latin name Sarcodon imbricatus or Hydnum imbricatum, depending on whether you ask Linnaeus or another guy. I wish I were more interested in mushrooms. I think Stewart has a growing interest in them. At least now I (maybe) know one. Thank you!

      P.S. How about those lingonberries?


      1. The lingonberries look stellar!

        Mushrooms are so hard to identify without looking at it from all angles, including what it’s growing on. Hedgehogs are easy to identify if you see the pores. Did you look at the underside? Also, I am just becoming familiar with north eastern types, so your area is out of my area of (in)expertise. I’m so enjoying mushrooms now–I’ve been a lurker for years but the bug has gotten more serious. I think it’s because I’m eating them now.


      2. Next time I talk to Stewart on the sat phone I’ll ask him if he can flip one over and take a picture. Though I gather there’s already snow on the ground so I’m not sure what kind of condition they’ll be in now.

        I do love mushrooms, so I should start paying better attention!


  3. Hi Shae, You look at peace, but – my opinion – you’re worth way more than $349.00! Or come to think of it, maybe even less. Maybe what I’m seeing is a state of being so close to not zero state of not being in the whole realm of valuing and comparing and estimating that I hardly recognize it. To me, you are priceless.

    Love from, Laura


    1. Love back to you! I like this less clutchy, less judgy mind. Of course trying too hard to keep it that way is just another way of clutching, so . . . darn. I think I’ll just go for a walk.


  4. Shae, it’s true: you do look happy. I have to grin each time I look at you planted there among lime and neon orange plush velour. It would all be a little too incongruous to bear if it weren’t for the zen in your eyes. In your absence from the cyber world, I found myself missing your beautifully written posts, so I’m selfishly happy you’re back. But you proved with this post that you can move me to tears with one photo — the rain in the river gorge — and one sentence — the black dog who just wants to run. Go ahead and nest in the place of wilderness mind as long as you possibly can.


    1. When Stewart found me sitting there, I did have to ask him whether we could leave. “Wilderness mind” is a beautiful way to put it, Caroline. That’s just right. Thank you.


  5. Love, love, love this post. So thrilled for you that you can get your wilderness on and hope you can easily slip into it between times of activity while you are in Fairfax. Note the amazing contrast with the last post before this one.
    The hard transition sounds a little like coming back from the Hui after 10 days of painting with Stewart.


    1. I think it is a lot like that, Georgi, though now that I’ve done it so many times I’m more familiar with the stages. I always appreciate this time of transition because I’ve learned it’s a great opportunity to make wise choices about what does or doesn’t crowd back into my schedule at home.

      Thank you for being here!


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