Saturday, December 15, 2007


The light we have now...

This air is cold and words are thin, but something alive
stirs within a silent heart which knows the night as tender
spouse of ancient light.

by Steve Patterson--author of Balance


Light is an easy thing to take for granted. That is, until it’s in short supply! During the summer months, sunlight is simply a given, a fact of arctic life, an overabundant commodity. Anyone who actually wants to sleep in the summertime will have to put forth a good bit of effort to block out the incessant light. But in the winter it’s a whole different ballgame.

December is our darkest month. In fact, we’re only a few days away from the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year. While it’s true that the lack of sunlight can be a difficult thing to endure, I have been amazed by all there is to see…even in the dark!

Under the cover of night, an ordinary streetlight can transform snowflakes into diamonds. Miles away, against an ebony winter sky, a pair of frolicking snow machines resemble Castor and Pollux playing a game of tag. It really doesn't take a lot of illumination to create an impressive display. Even the faintest stream of light can be interesting or encouraging or both.

I’ve heard it said that, even if you don’t have all the light you want, you must walk in the light that you have. I'm not sure where I heard that…or who said it…or when. But it's good advice for navigating down uneven paths or through unfamiliar territory. It's something I need to remember (better) when I'm in between streetlights or have ventured farther than usual from the porch. No matter how dark things seem to be, it is my hope to walk in the light that I have.


The photo above was taken around 11:15 a.m. on a sleepy Saturday morning, exactly one week ago. I was standing in front of my house, facing south, getting ready to walk to school. This is the light that we have right now…for about three hours a day…if it isn’t cloudy...but only in the southern sky.

The photo below was taken two or three minutes later, 1/4 of a mile up the road, facing north. Yes, the sky is dark, but Christmas lights, for me, are always something of an unexpected delight. And streetlights can be friendly walking partners too.

Santa would be pleased

Of course, the aurora borealis, commonly known as the northern lights, is an unexpected delight of a completely different kind. This photo was taken by Brad...a friend and the first principal that I worked with here on the North Slope. He captured this image while chaperoning a student basketball tournament in another North Slope village, Anaktuvuk Pass. Those peaks you see in the background are part of the Brooks Range. When I talked to Brad about using his photo, he asked if I wanted him to relate the “full” story. You know, how they had to trudge up the hill through snow that was 50 inches deep while the temperature plummeted down to -900 F! The kids managed to survive by huddling together for warmth until just before he snapped the photo, but alas, twelve people died in the capturing of this image. Well, that’s the uncensored, unverified, undoubtedly enhanced version of the story. And I love it! Ha! Thanks, Brad.

Northern Lights

Maybe the simplest, yet sweetest, light I see is the one that welcomes me home each evening. I know the snow looks cold, but doesn’t the light look warm? I love coming home to this soft, saffron glow.


I shot a few seconds of video on my walk to school the other day. What you see are the lights of the village. What you can’t see is the sideways snow that is blowing past me at about thirty miles per hour. These aren’t blizzard conditions…just a little wind and blowing snow. I have walked to school on days when all I could see was the next streetlight up the road! On days when I can’t even see the streetlights…well...I'm still here, anyway.

Thanks to Steve Patterson for allowing me to borrow from his blog, Balance, for this posting. His poem so exquisitely illumines the delicate dance between darkness and light...and the promise of things unseen...I was really glad to be able to include it.


Jackie said...

Sure glad you take the time to do this - I know it's hard at this busy time of year. I'm so proud of you and amazed at what your life is like living there. Your porch light does seem warm - I'm glad you notice little things like that and enjoy them. It's SOOO easy to focus on the negatives - you're blog's an encouragement to me.

Kimberlee said...

Thank you so much, Jackie. Your comments mean a lot to me and it makes me happy to think that you might be encouraged a little by something I've shared. I know that you are a "noticer" and "enjoyer" of little things too. I guess we're cut from the same cloth in more ways than one. :)

Ami said...

I agree with Jackie. I enjoy your writing so much. Your blog is especially uplifiting and interesting to read, since I live in here too! Thank you for the well-written reminders to enjoy the small pleasures of life!

Kimberlee said...

Hey there, Ami! Thank you so much for visiting and leaving such a sweet comment. I especially appreciate the fact that we can enjoy some of those small pleasures of life together! :)

lesle said...

Here's a Florida Middle School Teacher's Blog that is also exceptional and which I hope you enjoy.

Here's his advice for teachers.

Kimberlee said...

Hi, Lesle. Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment. I'm so glad you included the Pure Florida link. It looks like it will be a lot of fun to read/follow. The post that you linked ("advice for teachers") was really wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing that!