Dream Builder: Willis Crafts Sleds to Go the Distance

 

Bernie Willis runs his hands along the runners of a dog sled perched on a workshop table at his Arctic Arrow Farm in Wasilla, Alaska. He inspects the stanchions, the hardware and straps. In a few days, the sled will be traveling the punishing 1,049 mile trail between Anchorage to Nome….

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Valentine #24: A Memory

When we first stepped off the plane in Alaska nearly thirty years ago, the headline of the Anchorage Daily News announced “BUTCHER FINALLY WINS IT!” It was the first year Susan Butcher won the Iditarod (’86) and we were immediately caught up in the excitement of the world’s longest sled dog race.

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28 Valentines of February

We are gaining daylight by noticeable moments each day.  Valentine’s Day marks the turning point of winter in Alaska. Winter’s parting gift of light could not be more welcome, more treasured even than roses and chocolate.

This year that gift has special significance.

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Leaving Room for Holiday Surprises

Snow is falling outside my window. Gentle flakes stack lightly on each other, so that by noon I’m guessing the dogs will be romping in knee-deep powder.  The scent of baking wafts from the kitchen and I cannot help but remember holidays from the past,

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Walls of Every Making

My son, Mark, built a wall this past week. Rock by rock, he moved 12.5 tons of granite, to create a thing of rugged beauty.  The granite, blasted into chunks at a local Chugiak quarry, came back together again by the toil and hands of someone I love – a person whose lineage includes veterans who had to deal with walls of another sort.

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Graduation and the Keeping of A Tender Distance

It’s been a several years since the release of A Tender Distance: Adventures Raising My Sons in Alaska. I was recently sitting around a table with three other women whom I’d just met, and they asked me what the book was about.

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Migration: Moving to a New Season

Winter-weary Alaskans were not the only ones who took notice of our late breakup this year. An April snowstorm and an unusually cold spring meant a chilly homecoming for thousands of migratory birds. They arrived by the hundreds only to discover that rivers and lakes were still locked in ice.

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Alaska Signs of Spring

Last week, I noticed that snow had melted away from the south side of the barn, exposing dirt. Would it be strange to confess that I leaned down to breathe in the scent of it? The horses and dog found warm spots to sun themselves,

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March’s Fishin’ Mission

Len Nelson says he doesn’t like kids. “Ankle-biters,” he calls them.

For several weeks each Sunday morning before the appointed date, 75-year-old Nelson stands up at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church and announces that there will be an ice-fishing party for kids at Mirror Lake. 

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Silence and the Art of Listening

Amidst the carols and hymns of the season and the good cheer of fireworks and fun, there rang through our nation the bells of mourning. In an interview following the tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown,

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