Wild Birds of Flame

Sparks leap to the sky

Gone before they reach the stars

Wild birds of flame dance

Aww, that cute little boy is trying to escape the smoke in his jacket!;-)

At first I was amazed by romanticism of your haiku.

The Arctic is truly remote, can sometimes feel hostile but is often breathtaking and the people are what really make it worth staying. As a photographer and adventure lover yourself, you’d have a blast here.

Here in the Arctic they are 2x the fun – it’s usually windy and rarely above 55F although we do lose a little of the romance that can accompany a bonfire as our sun never sets during summer.

That must smell so good. I wish I had a wiener, marshmallows, and a beer. What is that boy looking for in his jacket? Is that guy in the back going to swing? This looks like a great thinking spot. The last time I was at a bonfire, I fell asleep next to the warmth of the flames…gotta do that again.

The little boy was just trying to stay warm in the chilly fog and all the fixings for Smores were present.
The location is my front yard – the beach along the Arctic Ocean, a wild and wonderful place.

They had all the fixin’s that night (marshmallows, Hershey bars and Graham Crackers) and they did it right -Smores first, BBQ second.

That kid is a sweetheart and I couldn’t blame him for hunkering down – I was wearing earmuffs that night to keep the wind out.

I love the thoughtfulness of the man in the photo. I really appreciated your background story above as well. Very interesting!

It’s also unfortunate that I can only show you 100 miles or so of the northern most part.
Alaska is so large, Texas and California would both fit inside it.

What are they burning?

At first I thought I could see the ribs of a boat, imagining that someone died and this is the send-off for his belongings. Romanticising… But I see / I think they are palettes and bigger timbers. Maybe from a house? From some deliveries? Come to think of it, how do things arrive from the ‘outside world’? Does everything have to arrive by plane or boat? Or is it possible to drive there? Of course, it’s Alaska, so it’s part of the continent, (a piece of the main) – but maybe the route is impossible/impassible/impractical/impracticable for large trucks?

How do they heat their homes, their buildings?

How far has that wood travelled to get there?

How often do they burn stuff?

Is that a pet that the young man-boy is looking at inside his jacket?

And then you are there, Maria. Did you come across them? Did you go out with them to do or to watch the burning?

And again the sense of the place with the flat plain stretching beyond, is really captured.

David, I LOVE your inquiring mind – I’ll do my best to answer your questions (and I’d still like to see photos from your time in Finland) –

  1. The photo is of my friend and coworker, Maasak, at a bonfire on the beach this past Friday ‘night.’
  2. The wood was from palettes from food and goods deliveries.

  3. A) Things arrive from the ‘outside’ world via plane.
    B) They can and do fly vehicles in, but a large amount of those (and other goods) arrive ONCE per year on the annual barge.
    C) There is NO port, nor dock, anywhere in this area so the barge is pulled in by tug boats (I haven’t lived here long enough yet to see this event but I look forward to it like a kid waiting for Santa) and then pulled ashore with heavy equipment.
  4. No, it is not possible to drive here.
  5. We are about 450 miles north of the demarcation of the Arctic Circle so you could use a 4-wheeler (ATV) in summer or a snow-machine (snow mobile) in winter but there aren’t any gas stations along the way so you would have to pull a sled with extra fuel and food to achieve such a feat and camp along the way.
  6. We heat with natural gas and electricity.
  7. There’s no telling how far the wood has traveled. The wood probably came from a gorgeous forest in Oregon, no telling where it was milled after it was felled and even then it would be shipped to some palette company somewhere before being purchased by the manufacturer or supplier of whatever was shipped in on it.
  8. We don’t typically burn trash here, which surprises me because nothing leaves the Arctic (except people) and with the way residents whinge daily about a few mosquitoes I’d think they’d adopt the SE Asian habit of trash burning to rid an area of mosquitoes. However, I digress – there are bonfires weekly. Just drive the coastal road (we do have roads in and around the village) and you’ll come across half a dozen or more each weekend evening.
  9. The young boy was bored, cold and trying to keep warm – no animals attended the event (jelly fish and squid washing up on the beach don’t count).
  10. I was invited to this event and it synched perfectly with my nightly habit of walking a mile of the beach so I stopped by on my way back – grateful for the warmth of the fire (that fog was accompanied by a steady wind that made it a nose-running-chilly night).

Bonus info:

  • There was a BBQ associated with the bonfire but the food was prepared and kept inside a building across the street.
  • I walk the beach daily, usually twice per day and generally for an hour or more each time, but rarely see anyone… unless there is a bonfire.
  • The geography runs as follows: The ocean, the beach (dark sand and dark pea gravel mix) a dirt road, a few buildings and then tundra… as far as the eye can see. When I took the shot of Massak at the bonfire, the ocean was to my left and the dirt road, buildings and tundra were off to my right.
  • We are still treated daily to the midnight sun so there is no sunset, there is no dusk, there is no twilight. It’s as bright at 14:00 as it is at 23:00 or at 03:00. The sun does not move up, nor down – just around to the right throughout the day/night as if on an invisible track. laugh
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I love the pensive look my friend Maasak is giving – he appears completely mesmerized and I’d have loved to know his thoughts at that moment.

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