My parents were arctic adventurers who recorded their nomadic lives in books and early documentaries. Childhood treks with them kindled a deep love for nature in me, and I too spent my youth wandering Alaska’s remote Brooks Range. My first book is about those years. Arctic Daughter: A Wilderness Journey, became a Reader’s Digest selection and is again available.
I was drawn back to this wilderness in 1992 with my husband, Tom Irons, our six-year-old son, Luke, and friend Laurie Schacht. We four were flown into the mountains and left along a river a few miles above my old cabin. Here we built a log home, which we call Kernwood, and lived for more than fourteen months. When spring again freed the land, we embarked on a month-long canoe journey back to civilization. Throughout our sojourn in this vast solitude we candidly recorded our lives. From ninety hours of video footage Tom and I eventually produced our documentary, Arctic Son: Fulfilling the Dream, which has shown on PBS stations across America, and I wrote my second book.
Over the decades our family returned often to our cabin, gradually crafting several structures, each a hand-hewn work of art. Our lives at Kernwood remain a communion with the living Planet—a whimsical dance with the changing seasons. Tom and I still spend a third of each year afoot in those arctic mountains. My next book, Trusting the River, explores the contrast between this emersion in nature and our “civilized” lives, which (like yours) pull us away from a deep grounding in the greater community of life.
When our beloved son, Lucas, died unexpectedly in 2012, we retreated to the solace of Kernwood. On this webpage you can read about this passage and our other experiences in Tom’s Corner and Jeanie’s Garden. There are also pictures, as well as a store page where you can buy our books and documentary. We hope you explore our webpage and find pieces of value for your own sacred journey. This year we are working with editor Brian George Smith on our second documentary, Arctic Daughter: a Lifetime of Wilderness, which delves into human wildness and belonging to this remarkable and living world.
Tom is seventy now and I am close behind; the time arrives when we can no longer steward what we have created. Rather than leave Kernwood as a foothold for exploitation, we plan to honor this gracious land by consciously removing all traces of our presence except for our memorial garden. We believe that one’s highest legacy may ultimately require our lightest touch. Over the next three years Tom and I will film our final documentary, Rewilding Kernwood, as we dismantle and replant over all that we have built. We invite you to join us on this journey, and hope that you are inspired to pursue your own unique dreams of beauty, love and wonder.
We are grateful for your enthusiasm. Please continue to share our work with your friends. Thank you for your support and your generous good wishes!
Jeanie Aspen and Tom Irons, spring 2016