Yukon Impression

Yukon Impression

Yukon Impression

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Monday, December 16th, 2013 Landscapes II No Comments

10. The Battle of Moon Lake

The Battle of Moon Lake

June 8th found me at Moon Lake Wayside, near Tok, Alaska. I was finally getting into what Alaskans call “the interior” and many consider it the “real” Alaska. At 60 degrees N. it is about the same latitude as Oslo, Norway. It was a remote location, I couldn’t get a single station on the van’s radio, AM or FM.

It was quite warm, T-shirt weather, and the mosquitoes were out in force. There seemed to be more of them than in Southeast Alaska and they were hungrier. I put mosquito repellent on my list as a must for the next shopping stop. Thank goodness my van had screened windows, otherwise I would have been eaten alive.

At this point it didn’t get dark at all. There was an evening twilight that gradually turned into a morning twilight, and then another day began. It was hard to make yourself hit the sack when at 10:30 p.m. it looked like 5:30 p.m. outside. I had to laugh when I thought of all the ways I had planned to provide my own light:

the van’s DC system,

an AC light for when AC was available,

a battery operated lantern,

a propane lantern,

a kerosene lantern,


two flashlights,

and I didn’t need any of them! The Sun was doing an interesting number on both Georgia and me. However, logic, if nothing else, told me that eventually I must sleep. So at what seemed an appropriate time by my wrist watch, I entered my mosquito shelter and tried.

Moon Lake was a very pleasant spot, and interesting, with float planes taking off and landing right past my camping site. It was also free as are all State campgrounds in Alaska. I decided to stay two days.

“Damn! That’s the fourth one in a row!”

My van seemed to have sprung a mosquito leak. At first I thought they were just a few that got closed in when the door was shut. Every time I opened the door a few always got in, but this seemed like too many! They came at me one at a time. They waited until I was almost asleep then one would show up with its characteristic hummmm. It seemed as if they found some devious and obscure little entry and they were lined up there waiting to crawl through in single file.

I finally got up in the middle of the so-called night to see if I could spot their trick. The screens were covered with mosquitoes milling about like a convention of some industrial association debating how to gain entry to this vast new market. I really couldn’t see that they were making any progress in their deliberations. The answer must have been struck upon in some subcommittee and the news hadn’t hit the convention floor yet.

“Well, thank goodness for that!”

I really wasn’t getting bitten much because being rather large mosquitoes they were noisy and since it wasn’t dark they were sitting ducks for a well aimed slap. They were, however, fearless in their attack. Again and again they charged with fixed bayonets. Again and again my anti-aircraft knocked them out of the skies. As far as I could tell, I was winning the battle, but I wasn’t getting any sleep either. Their strategy became apparent. They would lose all the battles but win the war. Suddenly there were more. The subcommittee must have made its report to the full convention.

“And thick and fast they came at last

and more and more and more.”

Lewis Carrol, from The Walrus and the Carpenter

Finally, just when it looked like my fate was to be sucked dry, a miracle! A strong breeze sprang up accompanied by rain. The mosquito forces broke off their attack. With a sigh of relief, I drifted off to sleep.

I can almost feel sorry for them in a way. There are so many of them and so few of us to bite. I’m sure that many are born, live briefly, and die without ever getting a single meal. No wonder they are so voracious.

It’s interesting that we use the Spanish word almost exclusively to name these pests. In Spanish “mosca” is “fly” so “mosquito” is “little fly.” I couldn’t even think of the English equivalent, but Webster told me the English word is “midge.” I guess I had heard that.

Even Georgia was subject to mosquito attacks. They couldn’t get to her except where her fur was short around her face and ears. She walked around with a little cloud of mosquitoes dancing in front of her eyes. It reminded me of that character from Li’l Abner who always had a little cloud right above his head that rained in his face all the time. Georgia took a number out of action with a quick snap of her jaws. She also swung at them with her paws, but didn’t get good results that way.

In the morning I surveyed the battlefield. The dead soldiers of the mosquito army lay all about me. They were contorted into grotesque positions, evidence of agonizing deaths. A few still twitched now and then. An examination of my body revealed that their efforts hadn’t been entirely in vain. A few brave individuals got one last meal off an exposed extremity before they went off to mosquito heaven.

Then I made a telling discovery. The passenger’s side door was not closed completely! Human error strikes again!

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Sunday, September 6th, 2009 Chapters 1 — 10 No Comments

Boom and Bust


Boom and Bust

Boom and Bust

               (click on image for larger view)

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Monday, February 16th, 2009 Nautical and Marine Images II No Comments


Starting in May of 1986, I took a year off from my regular position as Artist-in-Residence for the Pacific Art League in Palo Alto, California. Having hired and trained an assistant to run my framing business, I intended to take a sabbatical and see some of the United States. Two fine books, Travels with Charlie by John Steinbeck and Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon, helped inspire my decision to make such a trip. In addition, I wanted to sort out some philosophical thoughts I had been mulling over in my mind for a number of years. Such a trip would provide the opportunity. To begin my wanderings, I decided the first leg should go as far north as possible and that led me to Alaska. This book chronicles that journey.

Denali at Talkeetna by R L Mason

Denali at Talkeetna by R L Mason

Somewhere I had heard of the Japanese custom of keeping a “legacy,” a large book in which the head of a family wrote down his thoughts on life and other matters. The book was passed down through the generations with each successor adding his own thoughts. This practice appealed to me since I was curious about my ancestors and yet knew so little about them. Also, I was fascinated with the enduring nature of books. I had read the Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini and the Travels of Marco Polo. I marveled at how a book could provide a direct communications link between people of different times. Both authors were able to speak directly to my mind from their minds over periods of five and seven hundred years. It amused me to envision my descendants smiling at my quaint expressions five hundred years from now.

Age fifty (almost) seemed like an appropriate time of life to start such a project. At that age you are still young enough to have all your wits about you, yet old enough to have had a fair amount of experience with the world. You should have lost a good deal of naiveté and gained objectivity. You should have a pretty good handle on which of those “lessons” you were taught as a youth were sound and which didn’t hold water. You may even have a fresh insight, or rarer still, an original thought.

You have to have something of an ego, of course, to even attempt such a project, but low self-esteem has never been a problem of mine. On the other hand, I have no illusions about changing the course of history with this book. If it is never
read by anyone other than my daughter and granddaughter, that will be enough. I did feel a nagging sense of obligation and I think this springs from a vague notion that a life should somehow “bear fruit;” that something in addition to progeny should be left behind at the end. Being an artist has helped fulfill this need, but a work of art lacks the specificity of the written word, and I wanted to be more specific.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on any of the subjects and disciplines that are touched on in this book. The only subject I claim expertise for is my own opinion, and the reader will soon discover that I have opinions. Prefacing every personal conclusion with “it seems to me” or “as I understand it” does get rather tiresome, so I ask that the reader plug these words in mentally whenever I begin to sound instructive. They are, after all, only opinions. Finally, I have decided even though this book is a personal project, I might as well do it in a finished manner. At least I should try for broad appeal, although I would consider broad readership a bonus. An account of my trip provides the structure for introducing a number of diverse thoughts and is also a story in its own right. Much of this book was drafted at that time. Upon returning, however, and reengaging in the process of making a living, the project languished. I was determined to complete the project upon retirement, and did so with the help of a daily log which I kept on the trip, as well as photographs, tape recordings, and sketches done on location.

The essays that originally constituted Part II of the book may be found here.


Monday, September 29th, 2008 An Introduction No Comments