I wore my big parka today…first time this year. It wasn’t really cold enough, but over the last few days the wind has been hurling snow at about twenty-five to thirty-five miles per hour and there’s nothing better than fur to keep a sharp wind from cutting through the bones.
Drifts have been building up across the roads and beside houses. I’ve had to dig out the doghouse five times. I guess that’s pretty much what you would expect this time of year. Without the sun to keep it company, the wind seems to spend a lot of time racing itself across the tundra, swirling snow from the sky with snow on the ground in a frantic, turbulent sort of dance.
But, about a week ago, there was no wind. In its absence, an unusual stretch of calm settled in like a down comforter quietly unfolding across the land. Moist air lingered for a few days and wrapped itself around every solid surface until the whole village was transformed into a wonderland of frost.
Frost has always fascinated me. Growing up in southern states, I think it served as a substitute for the snow that I always hoped to, yet didn’t, experience very often. But, I don’t remember seeing frost like we had here last week. After a few days without wind, layers of feathery crystals began to build up like a sculpture being created in reverse. Ordinary objects, wrapped in a fuzzy disguise, appeared more interesting and fun. Mundane structures…like fences or handrails…seemed delicate, even beautiful. Hard lines all around the village softened. Battle scars from clashes with the elements were temporarily concealed by the elegant, shimmering mantle of ice.
Of course, the wind never stays gone for long and when it finally did return the frost was quickly sheared away. But, while it lasted, it was exquisite…and kind of fun. Tinged by the pale yellow glow of streetlights, the sight of our frost-covered village almost made me feel warm and fuzzy during my early morning treks to school. Considering the climate, that’s not an easy thing to do.
******************************* Unfortunately, I wasn't able to capture the glittery, shimmering effect of the frost in my photos. Either the camera I'm using can't do it...or I just don't know how. But, I do think you can see how thick the frost was. This looks a lot like latticework, but is actually a chain link fence.
Playground equipment...no one playing on it these days.
This silly picture is the sock that I use to cover my doorknob. If I don't keep the knob covered, it will collect moisture, frost, or snow inside the keyhole and will freeze up. A frozen doorknob is very bad news...especially with a half-mile walk back to town. I also have to keep it covered during windy weather in the summertime because the dust blowing off the road causes a similar problem (even worse). A sock is a simple, yet fairly effective, solution!
Welcome to the Arctic! This space is dedicated to observations and experiences related to daily life in the Inupiat Eskimo village of Atqasuk. Questions and comments are invited. Thanks for visiting! Quyanaqpaq!
nuna:tundra, the land atikluk:snow shirt, parka cover
Interested in Inuit culture? Check out these films...
The Fast Runner is an excellent representation of ancient Inuit culture. The R-rating is for nudity, violence, and some language. Subtitles are utilized throughout. I do not recommend this film for children, but it's an extremely accurate portrayal of the culture. It was introduced to me by an Inupiat woman who raved about it. And I agree!
For a preview, click here.
The Snow Walker is another excellent representation of Inuit culture circa 1940's. This film is rated PG, I'm guessing for language. No subtitles that I remember. It starts a little slow, but gets much better. It will leave you with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the survival skills of this culture.
For a preview, click here.
Great For Kids!
Whale Snow by Debby Dahl Edwardson is a warm and culturally sensitive story centered on the Inupiat subsistence tradition of whaling. It is available in both English and Inupiaq translation. The illustrations, by Annie Patterson are exquisite and add to the quiet softness that the story inspires.
To order this title on Amazon.com, click here.
The Alaska Geographic series is an excellent informational resource. The edition entitled North Slope Now deals exclusively with this area and even features relatives of my students. Although it was published in 1989, it is still current enough to provide a general understanding of culture, lifestyle, and issues faced by this northern-most region.
To order this title from Alaska Geographic, click here.
More about Kaktovik Disaster of 2005 (from Dec post, "The Edge")