Even today, a glorious, blue-sky morning bursting with sunshine and windswept clouds tinged pink and gold, the first morning in over a month possessing the faintest hint of fall, even today the air is thick and heavy and wet.
It is yet another in a long string of days laden with the bane of my existence, one hundred percent humidity. As I walk to school each morning, I feel the oppressive weight of it as I breathe in and out. It clings to my skin and clothes and every other available surface. I won’t even mention what a snarling tangle it makes of my hair.
There should be frost on the berries, but instead they’re just wet, wet, wet. Everything is wet and dripping and has been for weeks. September usually brings our first substantial snowfall. Sometimes it melts away, but more often it remains, white powder piled up on fresh sheaths of ice skinning the surfaces of ponds and lakes and eventually the river...just the way I like it.
I know this isn’t much to complain about while Southern regions are still scorching (and plenty humid as well), but…this just isn’t right. It’s not the Arctic autumn that I know and love.
Students have been asking, “Man, when’s it ever gonna get cold?”
I shrug sympathetically and admit that I’m wondering the same thing. I remind them that break-up came late this year, that the river ice didn’t go out until the middle of June and most of the summer was cloudy and cold. August brought lots of rain ensuring muddy boots and juicy berries. The seasons seem to have shifted a bit, abandoning the predictable timing of things that some of us so obviously crave.
September’s chill usually brings dryness. Humidity, trapped as frost or snow, crunches underfoot and leaves the air so fresh and crisp that it seems to snap. It’s something I look forward to—a lot. This year is just different. For now, first frost is still an elusive prospect as we wade through day after day of thick humid air...
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")