The Alaska rainforest art print “Sprucelight” captures the moment after a storm when sunlight breaks through clouds to dance on the raindrops caught in spruce needles, dripping lichen and the mossy bark of trees in this spruce grove.  One thing to be said about the abundance of rain and stormy weather we live with here in Southeast Alaska: at some point, the sun does return!  Always.  And when it does, there’s no doubt it was worth waiting for.  What is revealed when the fog lifts is a land of superlatives: the mist-shrouded rainforest, rugged mountains, towering spruce, wildlife, and fast running streams home to all five species of Pacific salmon.

The Tongass National Forest surrounding my community of Gustavus, Glacier Bay National Park, and extending nearly 500 miles from the northern end of the Alaska panhandle down to the border with British Columbia south of Ketchikan is the largest national forest in the country, and the largest contiguous temperate rainforest in the world.  Truly a national treasure, it covers almost 17 million acres, as you will learn in the “Shades of Green” video series produced by the US Forest Service.  Even so, this national forest is part of an even larger temperate forest biome, the Pacific Temperate Forest Region, stretching from Alaska to California.  I could fill pages with the wonders of the Tongass… it is a spectacular and critical ecosystem for many reasons.  But I digress ~ that is not the purpose of my story today.

My relationship with the Tongass runs deep, and over the decades has proven an important touchstone for me.  I was introduced to the forest after moving to Juneau in 1980 and falling in with a forest-and-sea loving crowd.  Kayak trips and work with the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council drew me in further.  Then came trips to Gustavus.  Long before I learned of the Japanese concept of shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing”, I characterized visits to our summer cabin near the spruce grove pictured here as “going for a dose of tree breath.”  There is something in the air that feeds me: I’m sure the moisture figures in, but even better, I imagine the in-and-out as we humans breathe carbon dioxide out and the trees breathe it in; they breathe oxygen out and we breathe it in.  It’s a beautiful synchronicity, and gives special meaning to the phrase “a breath of fresh air.”  I love to visualize this give and take while I’m walking among my tree friends in these woods.

The other piece of the story of this image is the way sunlight filters through the spruce branches, much like the air is filtered through the needles.  It becomes a green and yellow glow, with the blue shadows and dark trunks providing complex layering and texture.  This grove is by the river, so there is open space to the east and south where the river flows, allowing more light to penetrate the canopy.  Though I’m observing this light with my eyes, it’s almost a physical feeling that feeds me like the oxygen fills my lungs, filling my sight and lifting my spirit.  I call it “Sprucelight.”

Alaska rainforest landscape art by Gustavus, Alaska artist Lillian Ruedrich.  Love this image?  Click here to purchase it now.  Enjoy it as a 5X7 blank notecard or 11X14 matted giclee print.