THE PLACE WHERE YOU LIVE
HEXENKOPF , the witch’s head. Mountain summit in Northampton
County. Peak elevation: 791 feet. Isolated
prominence on a ridge of South Mountain.
Home. The ghost of a headless hunter, the
ghosts of witches, and strange lights have
been seen here. Strange sounds come
from the woods.
The stone that makes up Hexenkopf
Rock is embedded with tiny flecks of
mica, reflective scales that once covered
the rock’s entire surface. The mica has
largely eroded away, but during the various times when the densely wooded hill
was clearcut by owners trying to squeeze
an income from their rocky property, the
mica would mirror the moon and glow
white in the night. Morgan le Fay could
easily have lived in the brambly woods
covering Hexenkopf, fingertips sparking.
A NASA astronaut’s blog photo went viral this week in our community: a
full moon rising over interior Alaska, the
frozen white landscape curving into a blue
haze. Delicate, almost lacelike snowy islands spread over the foreground, anchored
in a deceptively calm North Pacific Ocean.
Rugged mountains appear flattened, fjords
and bays radiate out from the long spine of
uplifted sea floor at the archipelago’s center,
and there is little sign of life.
Yet as it was posted and reposted online,
a collective local pride labeled the photo
as home sweet home. For many of us living on Kodiak, this image maps memories
along each indentation of rocky coast.
At the north end of the archipelago, I
can see Shuyak Island, where I spent my
first summer here as a backcountry ranger
kayaking among salmon, seals, and the oc-
casional migrating orca. Along the western
fringe, I find Uganik Bay, where my friends
and neighbors fish commercially from set-
When German families settled in
Northampton County, their homes and
barns were inhabited by haus geister, house
spirits—leprechauns, púca, brownies, or
Robin Goodfellow to those of other ethnic
origins—half-animal creatures that lived
in the caves and hills and hunted in the
woods. When the Magyars (including my
great-grandparents) arrived from Hungary,
they found that the manók elves and gob-
lins, the foxy törpék dwarves, the cave-
dwelling bubus spirits, and fene illness
net sites along the shore. I think about
sitting on their cabin porch, watching
the sun set across the Shelikof Strait as
we drink beer from mismatched cups,
the tall stalks of fireweed on the tundra
illuminated bright pink in low light.