Midnight … sun?

Our yard at midnight. Daylight lasts about 20 hours this time of year, but even the four hours of “night” aren’t particularly dark.

Dear sleepless reader,

As promised, here is a photograph of the view from our house at midnight a few nights ago. Castle Mountain in the distance is still topped with snow.

As we near summer solstice, the sun officially sets just before midnight and rises again at 4 a.m. But during those four hours, it remains light enough to see and the robins and chickadees never stop singing.

Alaska is known as the home of the midnight sun, and as you can see, it is still nearly daylight at that hour. But as for the sun, it has been elusive. This summer so far has been rainy and cool. Of course when it did warm to 65 degrees, my husband and I complained about it being so muggy. My in-laws, visiting from Florida, might have disagreed. I guess “muggy” is a relative term.

What do your summer nights look and sound like? Do you have fireflies and croaking frogs? Streetlights and honking horns?





A letter writer’s quandary

Dear wondering reader,

During the past few days, I’ve had a few messages and comments from friends wondering if everything is OK because I haven’t written in a while. So here I am, sitting at our kitchen table and looking out at a quiet, rainy summer morning here in Alaska and wondering  — why do writers sometimes run out of things to say?

Maybe because at times life is too intense, or too dull, too overwhelming, or underwhelming, to know what to make of it. Writing, even if it’s just a letter to friends, requires you to say something that you hope is at least slightly interesting or important. And that isn’t always easy.

As I mentioned in my last letter, part of my distraction is seasonal. This time of year, I find such joy working in the greenhouse or garden or taking a walk at 9 p.m. around our property with my husband as we talk over dreams of a log-cabin sauna here and an apple orchard there. Writing is a reflective act that requires us to live in our heads, to reprocess the past and imagine other times and places. Sometimes it feels good to live here and now. It feels good to get my hands dirty and think of nothing but how many shovelfuls it’s going to take to fill this wheelbarrow.

In truth, part of my distraction comes from the sort of challenges we all face at one time or another in our lives — the unexpected heartbreaks and wonders that knock us off our feet and make us question what is important and how we can best spend our time.

And part of it might be a bit of social networking overload. Without any prompting from editor or agent or colleague, I jumped with both feet into Facebook, Twitter, and blogging more than a year ago, and I’ve spent quite a bit of time each day doing it. Maybe I’m trying to find a balance now between this new life as a published author and my old life of seclusion.

I am still doing other kinds of writing. As we gear up for the paperback release of The Snow Child in the US and the UK this fall, I’ve been writing essays and articles and short stories. I have an article about the art of picking blueberries that will come out in the next issue of Alaska Magazine, and I’m working on a short story for a UK publication that I’m really excited about.

It feels good to write these kind of pieces, reworking the structure and themes and sentences to make something new. So I guess I am writing, just not as many letters or tweets.

Even sitting here, though, I have thought of a few letters I’ve been meaning to send to you. (Thanks to my book club Betties for some of these ideas.) Maybe a photo of our backyard in broad daylight at midnight. Or thoughts on some amazing and frustrating books I’ve recently read. Or maybe a recipe for rhubarb jam.