Kaylene Johnson: Writer and Photojournalist

Our Perfect Wild

An unlikely couple—a wild boy and a good girl—Ray and Barbara Bane, both teachers, set off from the sooty landscape of West Virginia into the snowy panoramas of Alaska. There they make another unlikely commitment: to learn the Old Ways of the land they come to adopt—and defend. With her characteristic poise and bravery, distinguished Alaskan journalist Kaylene Johnson-Sullivan chronicles the Banes’ story of environmental gumption in the wilderness.

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--Molly Peacock, The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life’s Work at 72 and Paradise, Piece By Piece.

A Tender Distance
Adventures Raising My Sons in Alaska

April 2011 Break-up and Other Signs of Spring

April 2nd, 2011 by

April is that tantalizing month when the days grow longer and the sun’s warmth starts seeping into our bones again. The scent of dirt sends gardeners scurrying for potting soil and seeds. Bits of green grass start pushing their way through the thawing ground. The silence of winter is giving way to the trickle of melting snow. It is a time of renewal and promise.

But let’s face it. Break-up is messy. Our family first arrived in Alaska during break-up and our realtor apologized.

“It’s the ugliest time of year,” he said.

We had never seen a place more beautiful. If this was what Alaskans considered ugly, we were in for a treat. Twenty-five years later I still can’t think of a place more inspiring; but I do have a better understanding of what the man meant about break-up.

Does anyone in April have a clean car? The kids come inside with sopping socks and the dog tracks in enough mud to plant those newly purchased seeds. The slant of sunlight through the windows accentuates every speck of dirt we missed over the winter months. But who wants to see sunlight through a window – we’re all ready to feel it our faces.

One bright afternoon I invited my grandson for an outing to hunt for signs of spring. At age four, he has experienced less than a handful of this season of awakening. So I asked him what kinds of things happen in the spring time. He thought a moment.

“The grass turns green,” he said. “And the bears come out of their caves.”

We could probably find some green grass somewhere – but decided against looking for bears. Here then, are some things we found on our hunt. Green grass (as promised) – being munched by a horse. Lots of puddles. Dogs hanging out car windows. Mud. A barista in short sleeves. Snow. People wearing rain boots. A bug.

Soon we’ll be packing away our skis and digging out hiking boots and backpacks. Meanwhile, Alaskans will smile a little broader, breathe a little deeper, and enjoy this muddy, messy, marvelous season of spring.

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  • About Kaylene

    Kaylene Johnson-Sullivan is a long-time Alaskan who makes her home in Palmer. She has found adventure on Denali, the Chugach Mountains, and as a wrangler and cook in the Brooks Range. Her award-winning articles have appeared in Alaska magazine, the Los Angeles Times, the Louisville Review and other publications. Her books include Our Perfect Wild: Ray and Barbara Bane's Journeys and the Fate of the Far North; Canyons and Ice: The Wilderness Travels of Dick Griffith; A Tender Distance: Adventures Raising My Sons in Alaska; Trails Across Time: History of An Alaska Mountain Corridor; and Portrait of the Alaska Railroad.

    She holds a BA from Vermont College and an MFA in Writing from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky.

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