Sunday, May 1, 2011
1. It would make sense that we'd end up soaking in a small pond, a hot spring actually, 61 miles northeast of Fairbanks, at Chena Hot Springs, after having spent a month of looking at small bodies of water for alligators in the Carolinas. The water was almost too hot for me--I started to feel like boiled shrimp--so I climbed onto a rock and lay out in the sun in my swimsuit, while Mark and our good friend and host Derick Burleson talked about poetry. There I was, lying out in the sun in my Fred Meyer-bought swimsuit, not too far south of the Arctic Circle. I could have lain there all day, though I'm not sure what "all day" could mean when the sun rises at four AM and sets at 10 PM right now.
Later that night I slept better than I'd slept in month. We could all use a hot spring every now and then.
2. When we weren't giving readings or craft talks at UAF, we were looking for moose. We saw impeccably neat clusters moose droppings along the Chena River, right in town, no more than an hour after we landed on Monday, but you probably already know that the trip was moose-less. That didn't so much matter, as the looking was the interesting part. I couldn't take my eyes off those woods as we streamed out of town and back again.
3. The morning of our departure, Amber Flora Thomas, Derick's colleague at UAF, took us for a ride to Murphy's Dome, about twenty miles out of town. It's the highest point near Fairbanks, and if you look south, you can see mountains, startling snow-coated mountains, higher than anything you've seen in North America. The air felt completely unfiltered up there, nothing between the sun and our foreheads. And all around us, hints of the tundra before it was seeded with evergreen decades ago. Was it by plane? I think that's what I heard.
4. In the thick of things, I forgot to say we saw a reindeer giving birth! It happened so quietly, so effortlessly, no other humans in sight, that we'd convinced ourselves we weren't seeing what we were seeing. Certainly, that dark-haired calf wasn't really half inside her mother as she (he?) wiggled her ears and lifted her head to take a look at the world. Sure enough, though, when we drove back from Murphy's Dome, we stopped at the UAF's reindeer pen, and there was mother again, calm now, busy, chewing what was left of the umbilical cord.
5. The students were wonderful. The people we met after the reading were wonderful. But on the last day we couldn't stop thinking of the duties that awaited us on the other end. We left at 5 on Thursday to arrive in NYC at 9 the next morning. Two quickish layovers--Seattle and Detroit. Somehow my luggage made it through, and we made it too. Mark got to his lecture in Princeton at five o'clock Friday, and I got to the One Story Ball in Brooklyn, in Boerum Hill, where I escorted the wonderful Jerry Gabriel through the throng. I got back to the apartment at 1 AM Saturday. I slept till 1 PM Saturday. I've never slept that late--or that long--in my life.
Some photos of the event. In the first, the One Story debutantes: Jerry, Robin Black, Seth Fried, Susanna Daniel, and Jim Hanas. (Some people I talked to: Hannah Tinti, Josh Henkin, Elliott Holt, Jennifer Gilmore, Jordana Rosenberg, Larry Dark, and so many others.)
6. The Burning House is out this week. Officially. Many readings! Come to one! Watchung Booksellers in Montclair Thursday, NYU Friday, Canio's Books in Sag Harbor on Saturday.