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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Comments 61

Guest - Peterson Karen on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 18:46

So uplifting in this difficult time! Thanks

So uplifting in this difficult time! Thanks
Guest - victoria khazzam on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 18:44

Thank you for this poem. So great, I wish everyone can/will read

Thank you for this poem. So great, I wish everyone can/will read
Guest - Rachel Val Cohen on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 18:23

So lovely. Thank you. Stay safe.

So lovely. Thank you. Stay safe.
Guest - Kristin Vyhnal on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 18:12

Thank you for that lovely poem.

Thank you for that lovely poem.
Guest - Bill Leikam aka The Fox Guy on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 17:53

Now that is powerfully refreshing and we must all do our part to keep the land as it is on the HulaHula River Valley. There are so many such places under attack.

Now that is powerfully refreshing and we must all do our part to keep the land as it is on the HulaHula River Valley. There are so many such places under attack.
Guest - Paula Shafransky on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 17:49

Thanks Frank for this wonderful poem. Your descriptive writing is uplifting and calming.

Thanks Frank for this wonderful poem. Your descriptive writing is uplifting and calming.
Guest - Suzanne Post on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 17:47

Suzanne on Tuesday, Feb. 2nd —
Thank you Frank, for bringing me way north! ?

Suzanne on Tuesday, Feb. 2nd — Thank you Frank, for bringing me way north! ?
Guest - Lee on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 17:35

i've taken several haiwaiian studies colleges courses, in hawaii, lived there too, and this was the first i've heard that hawiian sailors named the Hulahula River. nice!/thanks for the interesting poem! Hulahula River– The name “hoolahoola” introduced by the whalers is of Kanaka (Hawaiian) origin meaning “a dance”. https://arcticwild.com/news/what-is-in-a-name/

i've taken several haiwaiian studies colleges courses, in hawaii, lived there too, and this was the first i've heard that hawiian sailors named the Hulahula River. nice!/thanks for the interesting poem! Hulahula River– The name “hoolahoola” introduced by the whalers is of Kanaka (Hawaiian) origin meaning “a dance”. https://arcticwild.com/news/what-is-in-a-name/
Guest - Marie Smith on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 17:13

Wow! Thank you, Frank, for transporting me into your journey!

Wow! Thank you, Frank, for transporting me into your journey!
Guest - John M Messer on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 16:52

Arctic Time

By Frank Keim

Frank, thank you for the beautiful awe-inspiring poem, "Arctic Time." As I read your beautiful poem I would pause, close my eyes and let my mind's eye feel and see all the beauty you described. It gave me a moment of peace and comfort, which is sometimes difficult to find with all that is going in our world. It reminded me that there is still much beauty on Earth if we will just take the time to savor and enjoy it.
Thank you again Frank. I am sure that your three poetry books, Voices on the Wind, Today I Caught Your Spirit, and Trails Taken…so many still to take…, must be a joy to read.

Kind regards,
John M Messer

Arctic Time By Frank Keim Frank, thank you for the beautiful awe-inspiring poem, "Arctic Time." As I read your beautiful poem I would pause, close my eyes and let my mind's eye feel and see all the beauty you described. It gave me a moment of peace and comfort, which is sometimes difficult to find with all that is going in our world. It reminded me that there is still much beauty on Earth if we will just take the time to savor and enjoy it. Thank you again Frank. I am sure that your three poetry books, Voices on the Wind, Today I Caught Your Spirit, and Trails Taken…so many still to take…, must be a joy to read. Kind regards, John M Messer
Guest - Raelene Gold on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 16:51

Thanks Frank for the lovely poem that led to my reminiscing about my 2004 rafting trip down the Hula Hula River in the Refuge. You capture the timelessness as bright sunlit days and still sunlit nights, while hiding and shivering in a sleeping bag, merged. You also capture the lack of man made confines, as there were no maps or trails and on the braided Hulu Hula. We were like Lewis and Clark on the Snake River, thinking it was the Columbia. We never knew where we really were.

Thanks Frank for the lovely poem that led to my reminiscing about my 2004 rafting trip down the Hula Hula River in the Refuge. You capture the timelessness as bright sunlit days and still sunlit nights, while hiding and shivering in a sleeping bag, merged. You also capture the lack of man made confines, as there were no maps or trails and on the braided Hulu Hula. We were like Lewis and Clark on the Snake River, thinking it was the Columbia. We never knew where we really were.
Guest - Carol Kuelper on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 16:43

Perfectly describes how I imagine being there!

Perfectly describes how I imagine being there!
Guest - Cathy Beers on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 16:38

That was beautiful.

That was beautiful.
Guest - Lynne Jeffries on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 16:31

Beautiful poem!! Made me feel like I was right there with you!! I love Alaska and you captured her spirit perfectly! Thank you for publishing this special poem!!!

Beautiful poem!! Made me feel like I was right there with you!! I love Alaska and you captured her spirit perfectly! Thank you for publishing this special poem!!!
Guest - Harriet on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 16:30

You took me to Alaska - a dream of mine.

You took me to Alaska - a dream of mine.
Guest - Gail Richardson (website) on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 16:23

Frank, your poem, Arctic Time, is so lovely, poignant and true. My husband and I explored the Dempster Hwy to the Arctic Ocean 2 years ago and found the landscapes so extraordinary, so sublime, the skies so vivid. We loved the native people of Inuvik and Tuk; we were dismayed by melting permafrost; we got to see a sleeping grizzly high up on a near vertical talus slope, thought he would fall. Amazing image; there were so many....thank you for bringing back memories...Cheers, Gail

Frank, your poem, Arctic Time, is so lovely, poignant and true. My husband and I explored the Dempster Hwy to the Arctic Ocean 2 years ago and found the landscapes so extraordinary, so sublime, the skies so vivid. We loved the native people of Inuvik and Tuk; we were dismayed by melting permafrost; we got to see a sleeping grizzly high up on a near vertical talus slope, thought he would fall. Amazing image; there were so many....thank you for bringing back memories...Cheers, Gail
Guest - Maggie Frazier on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 15:54

Really beautiful poem - and that doesnt begin to describe it. I never used to be a fan of poetry but last couple years have smartened up!! Reading that - and thinking WHAT would those Hawaiian whalers have thought coming so far to such a strange (for them) wild place. As others have commented - brings me there to that place.

Really beautiful poem - and that doesnt begin to describe it. I never used to be a fan of poetry but last couple years have smartened up!! Reading that - and thinking WHAT would those Hawaiian whalers have thought coming so far to such a strange (for them) wild place. As others have commented - brings me there to that place.
Guest - Renee Gagnon on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 15:44

Absolutely beautiful poem; it lifted me away out of my fluorescent-lit cubicle and I feel lighter. Thank you

Absolutely beautiful poem; it lifted me away out of my fluorescent-lit cubicle and I feel lighter. Thank you
Guest - Anna Freed on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 15:42

Hello Frank,
Thank you for the great poem about the Wilderness and its Beauty. You perceptions are so real to me I can see, smell and feel your environment. You bring it all to our consciousness. A rare treasure you are, my friend. Keep going, I will be looking for more to come. Thank you and many good thoughts your way!
Ann Freed

Hello Frank, Thank you for the great poem about the Wilderness and its Beauty. You perceptions are so real to me I can see, smell and feel your environment. You bring it all to our consciousness. A rare treasure you are, my friend. Keep going, I will be looking for more to come. Thank you and many good thoughts your way! Ann Freed
Guest - Styra Avins on Tuesday, 02 February 2021 15:42

I'm not usually taken by poetry, but this is for me what poetry should be, evocative, making me feel as if I were there. And I learned something new! A river named by Hawaiians, up there in the North? Thank you -

I'm not usually taken by poetry, but this is for me what poetry should be, evocative, making me feel as if I were there. And I learned something new! A river named by Hawaiians, up there in the North? Thank you -
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