“This is the true Christmas land”: Artist Rockwell Kent Spends Christmas in Alaska

“I suppose the greatest festivals of our lives are those at which we dance ourselves,” writes American artist Rockwell Kent in his diary on December 24, 1918, or Christmas Eve. In a diary that he kept while living in a cabin on Fox Island in Alaska. Filmmaker Eric Downs, who comes from Alaska, has made a short film about this life-changing year, that Rockwell Kent spent in the wilderness with his young son just before his fame and recognition.

In 1920, Kent’s diary was published as a book called “Wilderness”. In 1941, entries from Christmas on Fox Island were released as a beautiful little book called “A Northern Christmas: Being the Story of a Peaceful Christmas in the Remote and Peaceful Wilderness of an Alaskan Island”. In 1998, the first edition of this book was reproduced and published with a foreword by Doug Capra, a historian whose local knowledge was irreplaceable for Eric Downs.

“A Northern Christmas” is a lovely little book with vibrating illustrations by Rockwell Kent. I loved to read and re-read it this Christmas and imagine myself being out there on a wild island, cleaning the cabin and bringing a Christmas tree inside, lighting up the candles.

“What a strange thing! Nothing is coming to us, no change in any respect in the routine of our lives but what we make ourselves, – and yet the day looms so large and magnificent before us! I suppose the greatest festivals are those at which we dance ourselves. You need nothing from outside, – not even illusion.”

“This day is never to be forgotten, so beautiful, so calm, so still with the earth and every branch and tree muffled in deep, feathery, new-fallen snow.”

“We’ve cleaned the house, stowed everything away upon shelves and hooks and in corners, moved even my easel aside; decorated the roof timbers with dense hemlock boughs, stowed quantities of wood behind the stove – for there must be no work on that holiday – and now both Rockwell and I are in a state of suppressed excitement over tomorrow.”

“Both stoves are kept burning and the open door lets in the cool air. Everything goes beautifully; the wood burns as it should, the oven heats, the kettle boils, the beans stew, the bread browns in the oven just right…”

Borrow “A Northern Christmas” from the Sea Library.

“Es domāju, ka mūsu dzīves lielākie svētki ir tie, kuros mēs dejojam paši,” savā dienasgrāmatā 1918. gada 24. decembrī jeb Ziemassvētku vakarā raksta amerikāņu mākslinieks Rokvels Kents, – dienasgrāmatā, ko viņš rakstīja, dzīvojot būdiņā Lapsas salā Aļaskā. Kinorežisors Ēriks Dauns, kurš nāk no Aļaskas, ir uzņēmis īsfilmu par šo gadu, ko Rokvels Kents pavadīja savvaļā kopā ar savu mazo dēlu tieši pirms viņa dzīve mainījās un nāca slava un atzinība.

1920. gadā Kenta salas dienasgrāmata tika izdota kā grāmata ar nosaukumu “Savvaļa”. 1941. gadā ieraksti no Ziemassvētkiem Lapsas salā tika izdoti atsevišķi kā skaista maza grāmatiņa ar nosaukumu “Ziemeļu Ziemassvētki: stāsts par mierpilniem Ziemassvētkiem Aļaskas salas attālajā un mierīgajā savvaļā”. 1998. gadā šīs grāmatas pirmo izdevumu pārizdeva un publicēja ar vēsturnieka Daga Kapras priekšvārdu. Vēsturnieka, kura vietējās zināšanas Ērikam Daunam bija neaizstājamas.

“Ziemeļu Ziemassvētki” ir jauka, maza grāmatiņa ar dzīvīgām Rokvela Kenta ilustrācijām. Man patika to lasīt un pārlasīt šajos Ziemassvētkos un iedomāties sevi uz mežonīgas salas, tīrot mājiņu, atnesot eglīti, aizdedzinot sveces.

Aizņemies un lasi “A Northern Christmas” angļu valodā no Jūras bibliotēkas.

Foto: Anna Iltnere / Jūras bibliotēka

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