It was just for the day…out on the morning flight…back in the afternoon.
I said good-bye to a friend and hello to some much-needed groceries. It was a short trip, but a great day. Chinese food for lunch with a much-loved friend and a full fridge when I get home…how much better can it get?
While waiting for the flight back to Atqasuk, I was steadily entertained by the antics of two toddlers soon to be passengers on the same flight.
Bush planes provide passenger and freight transport, but not much else. There are no attendants distributing magazines or snacks; there is no in-flight movie to pass the time.
But…there is always the window.
And sometimes passengers put on a show without even trying.
I lucked out, having babies on board, because the passenger strapped in next to me was rather short on conversation.
I'd just finished observing the snow bunting giving itself a snow bath (previous post). I walked through the school to the front deck. It was a glorious day and the front deck of the school offers a great eastern view of the tundra. There are caribou out there...if only I had the lens to prove it!
Anyway, as I stood there, camera in hand, breathing in the fresh, frosty air I heard the slow scraping sound of a sled on the icy road below. Sure enough, a sweet pair come into view. A devoted young mommy and her extremely curious three-year-old son are enjoying a peaceful stroll in the bright spring sunshine.
It made me sigh inside to witness such a wholly unspoiled scene painted upon a canvas of pure white, simple and clean.
Teenagers tumble into view.
And a snow bath...of a different kind...ensues!
No preening or cleaning with this snow bath, but there were plenty of ruffled feathers!
And you'll notice the little guy observed it all...significantly out of reach.
While my southern friends are already contending with heat in the 90s and humidity that melts the body away from the soul, in Atqasuk we are experiencing breezes of 16-24 mph and windchills as low as -11F. If Forrest Gump had jogged this far north, I feel certain that he would have said, "Arctic springtime is like a box of chocolates...you never know what you're gonna get."
And he'd be exactly right.
As I look out my window, every day brings something different. Today, swirling snow is gathering up in puffy piles on the window sill and lightly dusting the crusty shell that has formed over our still-frozen ground. Other days (as above) the air is cold, but the sky is clear. Sunshine toasts the rooftops and warms the surface of the snow so that treading upon it produces a little crunch.
On the edge of my roof, just outside my window, a lone snowbird is staging a concert...totally free...for anyone who will listen. I have to smile as he puffs his chest and belts out his lively tune. It's better than any lullaby (or alarm clock) I know.
Aside from ravens, snow buntings are the first birds to return to the North Slope in spring. After months (and months) of silence across the tundra, the song of the snowbird is a welcome sign that break-up is on its way.
Though I've been waking to the cheerful sound of snow buntings for several weeks, the first one that I actually spotted was on a rooftop behind the school. He was too far away for really nice photos, but watching him vigorously enjoying his snow bath was a special treat that made me smile all the way home.
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")