Tuesday, October 28, 2008

In the meantime...

Moments for posting thoughts have been hard to come by lately. So, until there is a break in the busyness, I'll just share a glimpse or two of other people having fun.


There are two loading ramps in the back of the school. One is used for deliveries and maintenance daily, but the other one is generally unused... except during sledding, or sliding, season.

Sliding is a sport that requires skill and dedication. It is not to be entered into lightly! (That's mostly a joke.)

The first step is to prepare the course. These two are making sure there is a pile of snow at the base of the ramp. It's critical that the pile be of sufficient size for propelling a sled and its occupants into the air.


The next step is to pour water down the ramp...thus creating a surface just right for high-speed acceleration. Determining whether or not the desired effect has been achieved isn't too difficult. There are always plenty of guinea pigs around.


Finally, the ramp is open for business.


If I had a nickel for every trip down...I'd be rich, rich, rich.


But, I have to say, the pleasure of watching these guys have a good time...


...is a treasure in and of itself.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Nuna: An Introduction Overdue


A few weeks ago, my restless dog and I struck out for a leisurely walk around the lake. We were both grateful to get out; it had been much too long. Every step slurped and sometimes my foot walked right out of my boot. Thankfully, it wasn't too difficult to slide back in before stepping into the icy soup mostly concealed by fading grasses.


The sky was a seamless dome of gray capping a chilly breeze scented by water, grass, moss, mud, and that indefinable sweetness that always lingers on the tundra. Labrador tea? Likely, though I didn't see any along the way. Maybe I'll call the mystery scent Nuna's perfume. I like that and it suits her.

Nuna is the land. I don't know why I haven't mentioned her before. I was reminded of that on this particular day because, as I stepped, (between the slurpings) I heard something familiar that I had forgotten. It was the sound of moss tearing beneath my feet.



Very much like fabric tearing, the sound often makes me feel as though I'm ripping Nuna's garment. I wish I could tread more lightly, but I don't think she minds so much. She gets new clothes every summer. She wears a brightly colored atikluk embellished with thousands of the tiniest and most resilient blossoms imaginable.

Not sure what kind

Nuna, in summer, is soft and warm. She whispers invitation.

Atqasukpiaq 2006

She generously shares her abundance with...everyone.

Atqasuk 064

Her laughter is the twittering of nesting birds...



...and bubbling streams.


But as summer gives way to autumn, Nuna's laughter begins to fall away. Puddles and ponds develop a frosty skin.


She feels it and prepares, as we all do, for the flurries of September. That time when chubby flakes swirl and cling like powdered sugar in the corners of Nuna's smile.



Then new sounds begin to flourish...giggles and squeals and shouts. Everywhere, children rapturously bounce on their Nuna's knees. Sliding down her slippery skirts, they yell, "Again! Let's do it again!"


Nuna smiles a weary smile and lets them play while they still can. She knows the sun is coming slower and hanging lower every day.


I'm sorry I was remiss, failing to introduce her by name, but this is Nuna.

She is the land.

And now you know.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I'm still here...

What can I say?  Things are pretty crazy right now and, as much as I have wanted to, I just haven't been able to get photos loaded or get my thoughts down in any form that makes sense.  The photo I've posted here is from a couple of days ago.  I hope to share more very soon.

As I write this, it's almost 10:45 p.m. and I'm still at school.  We are hosting a volleyball tournament that began this afternoon and will conclude tomorrow around noon. Our principal is out of town and the first choice for "acting principal" is gone as well, so the task fell to me.  I'm probably being overly cautious at this point, but I didn't want to leave until the visiting students began to wind down a little.  So I'm still here.  In a few minutes, I'll do one more door check and then head home.

Sporting events work a little differently up here.  Participation requires a higher level of commitment from school staff than it does out there on the road system.  In a school district covering roughly 88,000 square miles, teams are forced to travel great distances to compete with other schools.  Everything revolves around flight schedules and weather. Overnighting at the hosting school is always involved and that means meals must be prepared, classrooms must be used for sleeping quarters, and staff members are called upon to go above and beyond the ordinary call of duty in the midst of unpredictable circumstances.  

In March, we'll be hosting the regional basketball tournament and prom here in Atqasuk.  We'll be feeding and housing four to five teams, their coaches, and additional high school students who don't play basketball, but will be attending the prom.  We hosted this event six years ago and, I'm here to tell you, it's a HUGE undertaking.  Just coordinating trips to and from the airport requires strategy and dedicated manpower. 

For tonight, though, we're only dealing with one small group of kids from Kaktovik.  They flew about 400 miles to be here and they've been a good group.  Our kids have had a good time with them, both competing and socializing.  Tonight, the student council hosted a dance that started out being more of a "stand" than a dance, but everyone loosened up toward the end and seemed to have fun.  

So, now it's 11:33 p.m.  I just made my rounds and everything is locked up and quiet.  The classroom where our visitors are sleeping is dark.  They appear to have settled in for the night.  I'm heading home to my poor neglected dog, a hot bath, and my pillow.

Breakfast and the morning volleyball matches are only a few hours away.