Lanterns in the Dark

Up on that mountain there are no screaming crowds or adoring fans to reach out and touch you as you start that climb. Seems like there’s nobody who cares whether you live or die, make it or don’t, over the top of that tall tall hill. Out there it’s just you and the dark and a collection of your finest animals making your way to a distant impossible summit while the wind shrieks against your burning face and blood pounds in the roots of your teeth and overhead a frozen river of stars pour out of the heavens to splash the naked firmament.

You’ve been a hard seven day ride out of Anchorage and your backtrail unspools like a collection of disjointed dreams seen through a frosted prism–the trail ahead rears and buckles and takes you deeper, deeper, and deeper still, until a spiderweb of cracks start racing over that window pane and somewhere an alarm starts to shrill and all the gauges are screaming at you that you’ve passed your maximum depth and any moment your fragile bulkhead is going to implode and the awesome depths of the Northland are going to rush in and fill you utterly.

It’s just you and your dogs and the ghosts of better men then you’ll ever be keeping pace, and if your lucky the ravens and the wolves and the other beast of the wilderness standing by to watch you pay your tribute to a country that you’ll never conquer, but on which you pray you at least leave your mark.

Out here you have to make yourself harder than galvanized sixteen penny sinkers, you’d best believe that my friend, because if you don’t, if you show the slightest softness, this land or somebody harder than you ever dreamed will flat out take your dreams right away on their own march to glory. You have to stand those runners against the storm and the dark and the endless cold, and take the punishment no matter how hopeless it gets.

And if you ride this ride long enough, there will come a time when you emerge from the dark into the blazing sun. Then you can turn your face to the sky and let the burning radiance wash your haggard features for a moment, and in this space you and your dogs will be cast in stark relief upon the surface of the earth over which you tread. You are alive–you and your dogs have climbed one more mountain.

This is the dream through which the warriors of the Iditarod now travel.

Hold your lanterns high my friends, for the hard part is still ahead.

Author’s notes for Ballad of the Northland

Thanks for tuning in–more to follow….



8 Responses to “Lanterns in the Dark”

  1. Nice – you really captured “it”!

  2. beautiful jason, you can feel the tension rising!

  3. Awesome Jason, you write beautifully! I now have to get the book. Does the Iditarod Gift Shop in Wasilla sell it?

  4. Good Job Bro….I finally have at least an inkling of how it feels to be out there in the cold fighting your physical and mental limits , always with the knawing concern for your dogs well being…trying to stay UP and nake correct choices, cause there’s no room for big mistakes and small ones will cost you dearly….that part I get from the bear work but the added to the cold and physical and mental hammering…Yikes! Thanks Jason! Aunt Carrie

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