The fog has pushed on for the time being and everything outside is soft and quiet. I want to take a moment to wish everyone a very merry Christmas. May your hours overflow with laughter and love. And may the truest miracle of the season move beyond the rooftop into the welcoming mangers of our hearts.
It seems strangely appropriate on this eve of the winter solstice that our tiny village is blanketed with a heavy layer of freezing fog. The sun set for the last time back before Thanksgiving, but we're still blessed with a short period of ambient light on the southern horizon when the sky is perfectly clear. Unfortunately, the weather hasn't been cooperating and the only light on the southern horizon I've seen in weeks is the signal out at the airport.
Before I moved to Atqasuk, I used to wonder about that line in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer that includes, "then one foggy Christmas Eve." Having grown up in the South, that didn't make much sense to me. I had no idea that it could be foggy and below freezing at the same time. Well, now I know. It's not only possible, but also common and something of a pain in the neck.
Bush pilots are amazingly adept at flying under the most challenging Arctic weather conditions imaginable without much of a problem, but fog isn't one of them. This time of year, with so many people trying to get out for Christmas, it can really put a damper on holiday spirit to hear that all flights have been cancelled due to fog. Where is that Rudolph when we need him?
So it's foggy here and quiet. With cloud cover hiding any celestial light and ice fog muting or totally snuffing out the artificial sources, the longest night of the year has the potential of being one of the darkest as well.
But that won't prevent kids (or adults) from playing outside. In fact, with winds down below the 10 mph mark, there will likely be a great deal of activity around the village. As these grainy photos from a few days ago depict, there is fun to be had even without the sun.
The photo above was taken on Friday (from my classroom) around lunchtime. I was hoping to get a good shot of the moon, but there was an icy haze diffusing most of the details. Still, this is a fair reflection of the amount of light we have at noon right now...when the weather is good.
The photo below, on the other hand, was taken around lunchtime today. Wind has been gusting for a couple of days, kicking up snow and forming drifts all over town.
Here's a shot from around 4 p.m. today with gusts in the 50 mph range. School dismissed an hour early. A few parents picked their children up with snow machines or other personal vehicles. But, because we don't have a school bus driver at present, the bulk of our students did not have a ride and walking was not an option. So making sure everyone arrived home safely entailed driving small groups of students home in the maintenance truck. Thankfully, all was accomplished without anyone getting lost, stuck in a drift, or running off the road.
That's always a good thing.
So now I'm headed home for the day and I'm kind of looking forward to getting out there. I actually like the wind. I like the way it feels to stand against something almost stronger than I am. And I enjoy the sounds of a storm raging outside while I'm cozily snuggled indoors. Tomorrow, as several people mentioned, will probably be calm and clear.
Forget darkness. Forget subzero temperatures. After an extra long Thanksgiving weekend stuck inside the house, this little guy was determined to play out. The wind was cooperating, so his mom switched on the spotlight in front of their house and out he raced, Tonka in tow.
I watched him drop the enormous truck and begin pushing from behind through the fresh, flawless snow...all the while sputtering those highly developed motor noises that small boys (okay, all boys) instinctively know how to make.
I watched with admiration as he played...and played...and played.
He didn't mind that he was alone. He didn't mind that his face was cold. He didn't mind that perpetual runny nose. Heck, that's what sleeves are for. He was playing...playing. And nothing else seemed to matter.
I think I could learn a thing or two from this kid! And I'm not just talking about sound effects. How often, in the avoidance of childishness, do I end up quelling childlikeness?
I have to wonder.
In the midst of the sometimes harried, organized chaos of my life, I spend a lot of time focusing on the details of being responsible.
And that's not bad.
But, the unfettered, ingenuous grace of this four-year-old reminds me...there are qualities my heart once possessed that need reclaiming.
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")