Arctic Time

By Frank Keim

Cathy

Old days drift slowly into new days

and the white eye of the Arctic sun rolls

bright across the night,

as we trek

south

up the Hulahula River,

named more than a century ago

by Hawaiian whalers stranded

on an ocean cold and frozen

before its time.

 

We stop at vestiges

of ancient Eskimo camps

where the only traces are

oil lamps made of pecked stone

and circles of rocks

where skin tents once perched.

We climb over tall rocky passes seen by few

in this harsh land

where musk oxen and caribou wander free

from man’s confining designs,

and so do we.

There’s no time in this wild place,

only the wind turning willow leaves white,

and water bouncing and

curling over primordial rocks

that gravity pulls

inexorably seaward

down

the rivers,

helping carve the steep valley we’re in now.

A Gyrfalcon cruises alone

above rough limestone crags,

searching for unwary parky squirrels

that chatter 

at our uninvited presence.

Wild sheep speckle sharp-angled slopes,  

staying high with their capering lambs,

ready to flee the prowling hunger

of loping wolves

and the hairy hulk of grizzlies

ever watchful for an easy meal.

The verge of snow ridges and cirques

severs the earth

from the blue midnight sky

where the sun dances across the horizon,

flicking light from the flowers of avens

tilting yellow and white in the blowing breeze

in this high Arctic valley of our refuge.

Time has no meaning here as it slides into itself,

moment into moment,

day into sunlit night,

into misty mornings

and scintillant afternoons

that fly endlessly

like the birds that fill them with endless life

for us here

on the Hulahula.

                                                           

Hulahula River

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge


 

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge


Frank is an educator, nature writer and environmental activist. He worked for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Bolivia, as an anthropologist in Ecuador for four years, and as a secondary school teacher of Yup’ik Eskimos in Alaska’s Lower Yukon Delta for 21 years. He has published three poetry books,
Voices on the Wind (2011), Today I Caught Your Spirit (2014), and Trails Taken…so many still to take… (2018). In 2012 he published White Water Blue, Paddling and Trekking Alaska’s Wild Rivers and in 2020 he published Down Alaska's Wild Rivers. He lives north of Fairbanks, Alaska.

 

 

Editor's notes:

“Wilderness Experienced” is our shared stories and musings about recent experiences in our nation's Wildernesses. Stories focus on the virtues of Wilderness and/or challenges facing the National Wilderness Preservation System. We want to hear your story! Learn more and submit a story.

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We encourage readers to engage the authors and other commenters through the comment feature. Please be respectful and thoughtful in your response, and focus your comments on the issues/experiences presented. Please refrain from personal attacks and harassment, using rude or disruptive language, providing misinformation, or promoting violence or illegal activities. We reserve the right to reject comments. Thank you for your cooperation and support.

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Comments 61

Guest - Ann Carter on Wednesday, 03 February 2021 20:07

Thank you, Emily, for such a great story from your past. I'm 82 also, but I've never had such adventures as you, so loved to hear about yours! I'm glad your guardian angels were "on duty!!" God bless you and your adventurous spirit, even if you are no longer clinging mountains and such!!

Thank you, Emily, for such a great story from your past. I'm 82 also, but I've never had such adventures as you, so loved to hear about yours! I'm glad your guardian angels were "on duty!!" God bless you and your adventurous spirit, even if you are no longer clinging mountains and such!!
Guest - Kim Zwicker on Wednesday, 03 February 2021 08:40

Thank you Frank for you beautiful poetry.

Thank you Frank for you beautiful poetry.
Guest - Nancy Lengel on Wednesday, 03 February 2021 08:34

What a wonderful poem! I'll check my library for any/all of your books. My maiden name is Keim - I would be proud to be related to you!

What a wonderful poem! I'll check my library for any/all of your books. My maiden name is Keim - I would be proud to be related to you!
Guest - Wilma Weddington on Wednesday, 03 February 2021 08:01

Thank you for taking me through your insightful words to a wild and spectacular place I haven’t had the privilege to experience.

Thank you for taking me through your insightful words to a wild and spectacular place I haven’t had the privilege to experience.
Guest - Jennifer on Wednesday, 03 February 2021 06:48

We need more wildlife sanctuaries, places where time has no meaning, beautiful.

We need more wildlife sanctuaries, places where time has no meaning, beautiful.
Guest - Copley Smoak on Wednesday, 03 February 2021 06:47

Lovely poem!

Lovely poem!
Guest - Mary McGaughey on Wednesday, 03 February 2021 04:37

Arctic Time is the essence of the circle of life on our precious Gift of Earth. With Gratitude!

Arctic Time is the essence of the circle of life on our precious Gift of Earth. With Gratitude!
Guest - Kat on Wednesday, 03 February 2021 01:58

Just wonderful the words just flow creating a wonderful world

Just wonderful the words just flow creating a wonderful world
Guest - Holly Hall on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 23:38

I love your description! I feel as though I am there! Thanks for sharing!

I love your description! I feel as though I am there! Thanks for sharing!
Guest - Bobby Hedrick on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 23:15

Bravo...it is like you are in a tribe somewhere between Charles Bukowski and John Muir!

Cheers,
Bobby Hedrick

Bravo...it is like you are in a tribe somewhere between Charles Bukowski and John Muir! Cheers, Bobby Hedrick
Guest - Angela Jensen on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 22:39

Love the poem, and I agree we do need to do more to protect the environment abd its wildlife. Before it is too late.

Love the poem, and I agree we do need to do more to protect the environment abd its wildlife. Before it is too late.
Guest - Julia Colingsworth on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 21:39

What an inspiring poem. It was a blessing to read it. You have a wonderful way with words.

What an inspiring poem. It was a blessing to read it. You have a wonderful way with words.
Guest - Margaret Keene on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 20:43

I don't usually read poetry but loved the trip to the arctic.

I don't usually read poetry but loved the trip to the arctic.
Guest - priscilla martinez on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 20:22

We need to take better care of what is left of our environment, for people, plant life, wildlife, and marine life.

We need to take better care of what is left of our environment, for people, plant life, wildlife, and marine life.
Guest - David M Lipman on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 20:14

A beautiful poem describing a place it is too late in life for me to see with my own eye, walk with my own feet, and touch with my own hands.

A beautiful poem describing a place it is too late in life for me to see with my own eye, walk with my own feet, and touch with my own hands.
Guest - Barbara Aronowitz on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 20:04

Thank you for those images of beauty. We are all losing track of time now.

Thank you for those images of beauty. We are all losing track of time now.
Guest - Kim Powell on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 19:28

Beautiful poem with wonderful visual images of a spectacular place !

Beautiful poem with wonderful visual images of a spectacular place !
Guest - Alexia Jandourek on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 18:59

Thank you for Arctic Time. So beautifully written, it put me right there.

Thank you for Arctic Time. So beautifully written, it put me right there.
Guest - Daniel Schmidt on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 18:52

A beautiful painting in my mind. Thank you for that

A beautiful painting in my mind. Thank you for that
Guest - Lynn on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 18:50

Beautiful poem!

Beautiful poem!
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Thursday, 23 September 2021

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