By Frank Keim
Old days drift slowly into new days
and the white eye of the Arctic sun rolls
bright across the night,
as we trek
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
helping carve the steep valley we’re in now.
A Gyrfalcon cruises alone
above rough limestone crags,
searching for unwary parky squirrels
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.
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
“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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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!!
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!
Thank you for taking me through your insightful words to a wild and spectacular place I haven’t had the privilege to experience.
Bravo...it is like you are in a tribe somewhere between Charles Bukowski and John Muir!
Love the poem, and I agree we do need to do more to protect the environment abd its wildlife. Before it is too late.
We need to take better care of what is left of our environment, for people, plant life, wildlife, and marine life.
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.