posted by Jeanne Munn Bracken, in Anchorage, AK

Ever since I was a toddler listening to stories being read to my two-years-older sister, I have loved books. Reading was my refuge from a family so dysfunctional that I (the honor student Girl Scout goody two-shoes) was the black sheep.

I read everything, from cereal boxes to the three newspapers (tabloids all) that my parents bought every Sunday. My avid attention to the salacious true crime stories got me banished from newspaper reading for a while. I still read a lot of true crime stories--I was looking forward to meeting the True Crime Queen Ann Rule at Bouchercon in Anchorage but illness prevented her attending. She's the former police officer who wrote The Stranger Beside Me about Ted Bundy. Very scary stuff.

It wasn't just true crime that I liked, though. I also devoured every Nancy Drew ever written before graduating to Agatha Christie, then Dorothy L. Sayers, and wham! I became a lifelong mystery fan.

Which is why I'm in Alaska struggling for words. Loquacious moi? Surely I jest.

Well, no. Probably because of all those newspapers, not to mention the glamorous Brenda Starr cartoons, I wanted to be a journalist. I was not encouraged by my family, because "nice girls" didn't become journalists in those pre-feminist days.

Surprisingly, I did accidently become a journalist anyway--writing freelance locally and for a few national papers or magazines. Books, too, but not creative, poetic books.

Basically I have been fearful about writing. Not about the self-revelations. I lived my Everysuburbanwoman life out on the pages of our small town newspaper as a weekly columnist for over 22 years.

I never had issues with what to write. It was the how I worried about. So many things that I feel, I can't express. Assuming I couldn't do it, I never took courses in writing or journalism. I took up amateur photography instead, and I have many pictures, each worth the proverbial thousand words, to prove it. My photo collection from this Alaska sojourn alone would, in thousand word increments, rival War and Peace. Which is reassuring to me, because I want to save these sights and experiences, savor them in months and years to come.

No, I can be a storyteller but I can't describe things with the depth I'd like, the colors. The Alaskan experience is awesome, and not in the sense the kids use today. The place fills me with awe and I'm trying to find the words to express what I'm seeing.

And I can't. I can't find the words to paint the craggy glaciers calving into fjords rich with floating ice. The haughty eagle perched at the very top of a bayside tree. The rivers and brooks and streams and creeks that lace this land. The golden glow of an autumn aspen backed by a sapphire sky. Everywhere--mountains, snow covered, crowns in the clouds. Sloshing on tundra and picking sweet wild blueberries already touched with frost. The whale blowing in the bay, rolling in the waves, flipping that massive tail. The sting of slipping into a mineral hot spring, warm in the Arctic Circle wind. Most of all the ethereal aurora, braided pale wisps against the lavender blue night sky.

Words fail me.

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