Caretaking a lodge in winter brings challenges and joy All images taken by Fredrik Norrsell On September 30th my husband, Fredrik, and I sailed into Baranof to spend a winter in Warm Springs Bay. There is no road, or scheduled air service, to Baranof. Nearly everyone arrives by boat. However, few people arrive in a 17-foot open boat without a motor. After an entire summer of rowing and sailing around southeast Alaska, we had been on the water since 6 a.m. A hurricane-force low was predicted to make landfall by evening. We were anxious to get “home.” As we entered the bay, beams of sunlight streamed through the clouds. Baranof Wilderness Lodge, where we would be caretakers for the next seven months, came into view. That night, 70-mile-an-hour winds rocked the dock. Water blew the tops off the waves. Spray dissipated into the air. Fredrik and I watched it all…

Learning from a tree To understand the black spruce, remember it grows from a fist-sized root ball as grey and compact and crucial as a brain. Each black spruce spindles itself straight up into the crack of the cold, stout branches making a skyward scrub from base to apex all winter night. And below that brain of roots lies permafrost, even in summer. This, then, is a tree that keeps ice in mind. I remember meeting black spruce during my move from southeast Alaska to the interior. I was ill at the time, a fjordlands creature with an immune system gone haywire, taking temporary leave from the rainforest and a sabbatical from the whole glaciated coast against which my fevers flared. I went inland, aiming for semi-arid, boreal-forested Fairbanks, where I hoped to find a kind of medicine. It was end-summer when I went, fall-not-winter. The road north took me…

Capturing the spirit in the sky

A SHIMMER OF LIGHT FLICKERS OVER THE KOBUK RIVER AND THE CURVE OF THE BORNITE HILLS. Then another. As I gaze eastward, yellow-white tongues of fire rise from the horizon, accelerate in pulsing curtains that blaze overhead, shred and vanish, then form again.