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

The Tyranny of Snow

January 30th, 2017 by


Another snowfall

Adds to the weight

Of this winter.

Skiing through the marsh,

Slender spruce trees

Bow beneath their burden.

Stooped old women,

Curled into themselves.


Flake by pure-driven flake,

It is not one but the many

Small injustices that

Bend these trees over time.

Break some of them.


How can something light

As a perfect crystal,

Accumulate into

Oppression? Like

Letters, formed into

Words, formed into

Ideas, onerous enough to

Bend low the life beneath them.


A pine grosbeak lands lightly on a

Heavy-laden branch.

Small feet

Disrupt the fragile weave

Releasing an avalanche.

The only sound a

Whispered breath of snow.


Hope comes unexpectedly.

A flutter of wing.

The stir of wind.

A tiny beating heart.



1 Comment

One response to “The Tyranny of Snow”

  1. Asta Sourgis says:

    What some of us have been feeling put into a beautiful selection of words. Thank you Kaylene.

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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.