Monday, November 30, 2015


In October, I traveled to Alaska to stay with some friends. I was a week in Anchorage, a week on Kodiak Island, and made a brief stop in Portland on my way back to my own bit of California.

I'd never been to Alaska before, but had heard enough stories from my friends that I'd formed a pretty solid image of snowy wasteland and turbulent seas populated with almost mythical beasts.

I didn't find a wasteland or mythical beasts. Though I did see a lot of bald eagles and there was a moment when my boyfriend--N--and I were driving through the mountains when he turned on the radio and the only thing playing was static. What I did find was a rich and varied land far more magnificent and strange than I'd anticipated.

One of my favorite parts of the whole trip was the day that we took the approximately five hour drive from Anchorage to Homer. Half the drive was through snowy, rugged mountains that rose abruptly on either side of the road. The other half was through strangely flat swamp populated mostly by what appeared to be very stunted conifers, but might have been some exotic, northern swamp plant I couldn't put a name to.

I almost felt like I'd seen it all before.

Not because of pictures or ordinary deja vu, though, but because I had imagined a similar setting for a story I have yet to finish writing. Similar, I said, but not the same. I could never have imagined mountains that abrupt or the strangeness of the misty, alien swampland. As soon as I saw them, my unwritten story gained a foundation of truth that hadn't been there before.

Fiction and reality are inextricably linked for me. I filter my experience of the real world through the stories I have read, and judge the stories with the practicality of the real world. Despite their close relationship, though, fancy and everyday world are usually no more than distant reflections of one another. Unfortunately for imaginative souls like myself, we can't expect the world to conform to storybook rules.

Yet, now and then, I stumble across a wonderful moment like this where the two seem to converge. Suddenly, the fairy tale is real and the real world is far more beautiful than I usually give it credit for.

snowy mountains and shoreline outside Anchorage, Alaska
Mountains on the way out of Anchorage

Giant red and green cabbages in Homer, Alaska
Giant cabbages in Homer, AK

me taking photographing snowy mountains somewhere between Anchorage and Homer, Alaska
Me, taking a picture of mountains somewhere between Anchorage and Homer
Photo courtesy of N

smoked salmon flavored vodka in Safeway on Kodiak Island, Alaska
Only in Alaska

beautiful sunrise over Kodiak Island, Alaska
Sunrise on Kodiak

fishing boats in the St. Herman Harbor on Kodiak Island, Alaska
A gray day in the harbor

The view from the top of Pillar Mountain on Kodiak Island, Alaska
The view from the top of Pillar Mountain on Kodiak Island

Moss and lichen growing on a tree in a forest on an island near Kodiak, Alaska
Crazy, vibrant moss on a small island near Kodiak

Abandoned outbuildings in the amazing moss forest

Shakmanof Point at sunset from on the water
On N's skiff near Shakmanof Point


  1. I find that this kind of strange (as in NEW) sensory experience is so stimulating - it makes me want so much to be able to convey what it so striking. Your description of you interaction with the landscape reminds me of when I visited the rain forest in WA, and how I was reveling in the immediacy of it and at the same time thinking madly how I might possibly put it into words. For a writer, every experience is heightened, I think, because of this multi-leveled intake.

  2. I felt this - that kind of alien familiarity - on the Isle of Skye. It fitted the setting of one of my own story worlds so perfectly, and it felt like stepping into the world of King Arthur and Rosemary Sutcliff. Like a geographical deja vu.

  3. That glorious feeling of fiction/IRL compatibility is how I feel anytime I can hide from the world in a forest, or go on wandering walks in Germany where every little thing is some kind of magic. It is true love.