Reading Time: < 1 minute

I’m not sure where I picked up the word confabulation, but it is my current favorite word. In psychology, it refers to a dysfunction of the mind to manufacture believed memories no matter how fantastical. I generalize its use as a verb for the tendency of the mind to fill in the blanks, to provide the missing pieces, to make up fantastical stories, to create a satisfactory explanation out of chaos without proof, to find a pattern in the randomness that doesn’t exist, all without any intent to deceive.

Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” is a story of confabulation. Of the need to go back in time to convince ourselves that we took the right path and that has made all the difference when each is equally as good.

Anti-confabulate, a word I just invented, would be to resist this urge to confabulate though I am having a hard time convincing myself that anti-confabulate and confabulate aren’t the same thing. In other words, everything is a confabulation because we can’t resist our proclivity to provide an explanation. Unconfabulate would be to tear down a confabulation.

Confabulation as an exercise in imagination is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, it’s better to go for the most outrageous story rather than the most accurate one. Maybe someday you will get lucky and have both.


Reading Time: 2 minutes

From my youth, I remember the photos of snow-bearded muskox huddled together in an outward-facing circle to protect one another from the arctic blizzards. They are to the cow as the wooly mammoth is to the elephant, a stringy-haired relic of the ice age that didn’t get the memo to go extinct. They only live in the tundra of the far north latitudes surviving on lichen and moss during the harsh long winters.  

One of my ambitions was to watch and photograph these beasts in their native habitat on our trip to Deadhorse, Alaska.  From our ship container(-ish) hotel room, the hotel manager told me that they were on the river’s edge earlier in the day before we arrived. He peered out the window across the road and toward the river but didn’t see any. He said they might come back later in the day, although that might have been a trick answer because the day in the Arctic summer is two months long. So I checked every couple of hours through the course of the nightless day during our twelve-hour stay and on the trip in and out, but the ice age creatures failed to reveal themselves.

Two days later, back at Fairbanks, we overnighted in an Air BNB place that was interestingly called the Musk Ox house. In the morning, looking out the back window onto a field behind the house, I saw a large black mass of fur which I guessed to be a grizzly bear. So I bravely or foolishly grabbed my camera and ran out to capture a photo trophy. You have probably guessed already that the grizzly bear was in fact a muskox. It turns out one of the few herds of captive muskox live at the U of Alaska Fairbanks Large Animal Research Station which just happened to be in the backyard of the overnight rental.

So I saw muskoxen although not really on my terms. Which now that I think about it, might actually be the underlying theme of our trip. Hashtag on #prudhoe for more on the trip, if you are interested.

Author’s note: subsequent research tells me that muskoxen are more closely related to goats and sheep than cows. (