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.
Nuna, in summer, is soft and warm. She whispers invitation.
She generously shares her abundance with...everyone.
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.
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")