White nights & midnight sun…..

We’re just past the Solstice, almost unbelievably the days will start to shorten now even though summer is just arriving. I know that technically it was on the 20th (I don’t remember the exact time) because it was a Leap Year but the 21st June always seems the right time to celebrate it.

In my memory, on childhood summer holidays in Scotland, it seems to have been been daylight until after 11pm. Eyes adapt to the darkling light; you can distinguish trees from people or cows from fallen trees. Sheep become luminous.

Journal prompt: Have you walked in the summer nights? Where did you go? What did you notice? Describe the experience or go and find out now – see how the familiar can become strange and new.

Last week I was in Alaska where I never saw it really darken – even though I kept the blackout curtains open and tried to stay awake.

On the aeroplane home the sun seemed to set as we took off at midnight, and rise again on the other side of the plane an hour later. This was my experience – not sure about the science.

Journal prompt: how does the length of the days (and nights) affect you? What do you do differently as a result?

I know this has a profound affect on those who live above the Arctic Circle, and on the way that life is lived – whether it is all daylight or all dark.

By the way, thanks for recommendations of reading for Alaska – I greatly enjoyed books by John McPhee and Verna Wallis as a result of your suggestions. I also recommend Alison Owings’ Indian voices: Listening to Native Americans for its chapter on the Yup’ik of Alaska.

And the bears I saw in Alaska looked just like the bears in my garden…….

Notes & marginalia…..

Taos is very beautiful, infused with an ancient Indian heritage and the spirits of 20th century writers & artists. In an Anglo-centric literary fashion it was always DH Lawrence who drew me there. On my recent visit I was therefore staying at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House……….

Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, NM.

Mabel Dodge Luhan committed huge amounts of time to persuading Lawrence (and other writers, artists and thinkers) to go to Taos; when he did they had a very stormy relationship. The house is now an inn and hosts writers and writing workshops (which gives me an idea for next year…..).

I was also appropriately reading Joseph Foster’s D.H.Lawrence in Taos which gives an interesting perspective from someone who knew, observed and admired him but was not blind to his peculiarities.

It was a library book which, as with second hand books, sometimes brings you more than just the author’s words, more often an added bonus than an irritation, wouldn’t you say?

On page 57 the occasional pencil underlinings suddenly become personal, become words, develop character. I reproduce here the underlining and  the pencil margin notes which make a great Journal Prompt.

Foster wrote:

What does one expect of a great man, such as Lawrence in one’s life?

Perhaps only contact. Reassurance that because of him life is worthwhile. Lawrence was a presence in our lives even before we met him. Someone who stirred the highest things in us. (p57)

Someone underlined the last sentence above and wrote in the margin:

Who stirs the highest things in you? what?

I would describe this as “A Found Journal Prompt”.

Taos Pueblo

And finally….

Do you like to read geographically relevant books? What combinations of place & book have you found?

My next trip is to Alaska – any reading suggestions?