Sunday, February 25, 2018


February is coming to an end and just in time I finished my Alaska painting.  I searched many roads looking for just the right place to paint to somehow bring Alaska to life, but no one image seemed to hit me just right, so I decided to combine several images.  I wanted a mountain, some buildings and just the right colors.  The painting had to say "cold" and "lonely" but not forbidding.  At the moment I am quite satisfied with this one.  Once again half the proceeds of the sale of the painting go to the ACLU.

Nancy Herman
12" x 24"
oil on stretched canvas


Last month's painting, SELMA, ALABAMA has a new home and the ACLU has a little more money to fight for our Civil Liberties.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


Certainly no information about Alaska would be complete without an examination of its purchase by the United States from Russia in 1867.

Although Native Alaskans had lived in Alaska since around 30,000 BP (before present), and the Russians had only been there since the mid 18th century, they claimed to own it.  And the United States agreed that was the case and paid 2 dollars an acre to purchase it from them.  The $7.2 million paid would be about $105 million today.

The Native Alaskans had no centralized government to object to any of this and so they tacitly agreed to be “owned” by the United States.  U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward signed the treaty with Russia.  The deal was unpopular in many quarters and so it has been known as Seward’s Folly ever since.  Certainly it was the best bargain in World History as Alaska is rich in an abundance of natural resources including gold and oil but, also being bordered by 3 great oceans there are rich fishing grounds and the potential for water power.

Here is a interesting little tid bit that sounds similar to some of the shenanigans going on presently with the Russians.

"Finally, in July 1868, after Johnson lost the Democratic presidential nomination, the House of Representatives voted 113-43 to hand over the money to Russia. A congressional investigation later determined that Stoeckl, the Russian minister, bribed lobbyists and journalists during this time period. Private notes written by Johnson and another U.S. official suggest that Stoeckl—with Seward’s knowledge— likewise made tens of thousands of dollars in illicit payments to members of Congress.” from THIS DAY IN HISTORY

Monday, February 19, 2018


Although the average person refers to Eskimos to describe all native people of the North this is not an accurate description.  All Eskimos are not all native people.  There are many tribes just as there are many tribes of Indians in the lower 48.

In Canada and Greenland, the term Eskimo has largely been supplanted by the term Inuit.  While Inuit can be accurately applied to all of the Eskimo peoples in Canada and Greenland, that is not true of Alaska and Siberia.  In Alaska the term Eskimo is commonly used, because it includes both Yupik and Inupiat.  Inuit is not accepted as a collective term and it is not used specifically for Inupiat (although they are related to the Canadian Inuit peoples)  In US and Alaskan law the words Alaskan Natives cover all tribes.

These natives have survived for centuries under the harshest conditions.  Although electricity has arrived in some areas of the far North, there are still not roads and supplies must be brought in by air.

I have looked at several videos about the life of Native Alaskans and I think THIS one, which is only 20 minutes long seems pretty authentic.  It is an old black and white film not sure when it was made and can’t seem to find out.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Back Home #2

Today was chilly but clear and sunny so I decided to repeat my walk looking for the crocuses in bloom with my camera.  The sun and the fact that everything was now pretty dry definitely changed the colors.  No more deep mysterious greens and oranges, but the day was glorious none the less.  Here the sun lit up the beautiful bark of this Peeling Birch tree.  

Further along the Sycamore was a brilliant white against the pure blue of the sky.

I was wrong about the crocuses however they are still not in bloom.  I guess they are simply too young to fold down their petals and welcome spring....and its a good thing as snow is forecast for tonight.

Further along I sat on this bench which is dedicated to Lenore Susan Spiegel.  As I sat in the sun enjoying the peace of the park I silently thanked Ms Spiegel for the experience.  A bench in the park is a fine memorial to a loved one, as it keeps on giving pleasure to others for years to come.

These walks have brought to my attention how much I have been missing nature and I intend to get out more regularly from now on regardless of the weather.

Saturday, February 17, 2018


Taking a rest from all this traveling I decided, because of the balmy weather, to take a nice long walk down to Merion Park to see if the early crocuses which line the banks of the stream were up yet.  It was pure pleasure all the way.  Everything was wet, so the colors were deep and rich.  I got into that almost ecstatic state that sometimes comes over me when I am so full of delight with my experience that it as if I am in a trance.  Winter often feels so dismal and yet on a day like today when it is not too cold you can really enjoy the subtleties of the season.  The greens were especially deep and delicious, occasionally set off by the dark orange- brown of dead leaves and the graceful structure of the almost black towering trees.

When I got to the park the crocuses were indeed popping up all along the bank, although they were not open as the sun is required for that display, but I noted with pleasure that there were signs indicating that this is now a "no mowing area" as native plants have been introduced.  So there will be many more occasions for strolling to the park as these lovelies emerge.

I did not have my camera but I did take some shots on a friend's street on a similar day last week.  They don't tell the whole story by any means because it is difficult to get this kind of subtle color with an iPhone, but if you can, take a walk and see for yourself!

Thursday, February 15, 2018


The most interesting thing about Alaska for me is the fact that there are so few people there and the land is for the most part unspoiled.  Vast expanses of mountains and valleys home to large populations of wild animals and plants of all sorts abound.  I have watched ALONE IN THE WILDERNESS several times and enjoyed it every time.  I imagine a small part of all of us would like to pit ourselves against the elements and experience unspoiled nature.  Richard Proenneke did just that for almost 30 years, all alone, doing a skillful job of living off the land and filming his life.  If you have not seen this I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


Most of Alaska is unpopulated, at least by people.

65% of Alaska is owned and managed by the US Bureau of Land Management.  This includes a multitude of national forests, national parks, and national wildlife refuges.  Of the remaining land area, the state of Alaska owns 101 million acres. A portion of that acreage is occasionally ceded to organized boroughs.  Smaller portions are set aside for rural subdivisions and other homesteading related opportunities.  The University of Alaska, as a land-grant university, also owns substantial acreage which it manages independently.
Another 44 million acres are owned by 12 regional, and scores of local, Native corporations created under the Alaska native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. These corporations hold title but cannot sell the land.  Individual Native allotments can be and are sold on the open market, however.
Various private interests own the remaining land, totaling about one percent of the state.  Alaska is, by a large margin, the state with the smallest percentage of private land ownership when Native corporation holdings are excluded.

Here are some pictures from one of Alaska's Recreation Sites located in the South Eastern part of the state.

I was attracted to it because of it's name: THE CLEARWATER STATE RECREATION SITE:

Monday, February 12, 2018


Alaska has few roads and most the these are in the Southern part of the state.  It is home to a unique feature, the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, an active Alaska Railroad and road tunnel.  This tunnel is 2.5 miles, the longest road tunnel in North American until 2007 when the Ted Williams Tunnel was completed in Boston.

However trouble is brewing.  Apparently the permafrost is melting causing huge fissures in the few roads that do exist.  So the romantic trip through the last frontier may be marred by your car falling into the abyss.

Check out details HERE.

Saturday, February 10, 2018


There are very few roads in Alaska so traveling on Google maps is limited but today I took a trip on the Glen Highway in Glennallen which is in the Southeastern area of the State.

This from Wikipedia:

"During World War II, the United States built a series of military bases in Alaska, primarily for the purpose of supplying aircraft and other war materiel to Russia by way of Alaska and the Russian Far East as part of the Lend-lease program. This made it difficult for the Germans to the west and the Japanese to the south of Russia to interfere with the supply operation. As part of this operation, highways were built to supply the bases. The major highway project of this effort was the Alaska Highway from Dawson CreekBritish ColumbiaCanada to the existing Richardson Highway at Delta Junction, Alaska and thus to Fairbanks via the Richardson Highway. Another project was the Glenn Highway, which connected Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, with the Richardson Highway, and thus with the rest of Alaska, Canada, and the then-48 United States.[citation needed]"       

You can drive for miles and see nothing with a very occasional car passing by.

However I did spot this rest stop after many miles.

And, just as I was afraid I would run out of gas and die of hunger, a Grocery store and gas station.


I saw no billboards, no Drugstores, no MacDonalds or Wendy's on this highway.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018


The first people to arrive in Alaska seem to have traveled over the Bering Land Bridge around 16,500 years BC.  This land bridge no longer exists but it was from Beringia in Siberia to North America and the people who crossed the bridge were called Ancient Beringians.

The Tlingit people developed a society with a matrilineal kinship system of property inheritance and descent in what is today Southeast Alaska.

  Tsimshian are indigenous people also with a matrilineal kinship system in Southern Alaska.

The Haida tribe also in Southeast Asia is well known for its art as well it should be.  It is spectacular. I always wonder when seeing a body of work from one group that is so fabulous if one artist began working in that style and others simply seeing how exciting it was copied it, or if it actually pours out of the soul of a culture.

Contemporary Haida art looks like this and is called Haida Manga.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Slightly off topic

Considering that Alaska has very few people but a tremendous number of animals and plants I began to think about how each place where civilization developed was influenced by its very particular life forms.  This led to wondering about life itself and where and how it developed.

It seems that no-one really knows about that but HERE are some interesting conjectures.

If you are interested in the fascinating development of life on earth HERE is a good list.

Sunday, February 4, 2018


Alaska is home to the largest wildlife refuges in the United States, comprising 16 million acres.  Currently drilling for oil was approved for portions of ANWR, which is in North East Alaska and is a part of this national treasure.  Drilling is strongly opposed by environmental groups and Gwich'in Natives in Alaska and Canada who depend on the Porcupine Caribou Herd for their subsistence lifestyle.

This is what our President had to say about his reasons for including this legislation in the tax bill.

Friday, February 2, 2018


It's February and time to get on our anoraks and move on to the next state - ALASKA.  I guess Alabama and Alaska are about as different as you can get, at least as far as climate is concerned.  The average temperature of Alabama is 65, Alaska's is 37 but Alaska is so big that it actually spans three climate zones.

Alaska is by far our largest state.  Since it is located so far away and separated from the rest of the states it is not so obvious, but here superimposed on the rest of the states it is very clear just how big it is.