Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Light is coming back....

We've gotten SO much snow the past week or so, and it's pretty cool. It's still not as high as it gets over on the other side of town, where the old school was, but it's the first year that it's gotten close since we've lived over here: It was fun to bring Esther and Iris out, as it was fairly warm (30 degrees), and while Esther sledded by herself and with other kids, I let Iris ride in the sled down little teeny drifts, me holding on to her sled. She really liked the feeling. She liked it so much that then she fell asleep! Here's Iris all decked out in her winter garb:Where's the baby in this picture?:Ah, there she is, and unhappy with me that I've stopped rocking her snow-cradle!:

We had an amazing morning of ice fog, also, which I've rarely experienced, and got some cool pictures of how it laid down frost in interesting textured patterns on stuff, like the antlers from the moose Tuluk caught last September (the moose whom we thank profusely everytime we eat him for dinner):

Many people, when remarking on aspects of my life in Alaska, say that I must get tired of the dark, since we have fewer hours of daylight in winter than people do in the lower 48. However, I always beg to differ. Even though we officially DO have fewer hours of daylight in the winter, it rarely seems like it.

Think about it, Midwesterners, East-coasters, Pacific Northwesters -- how much sunlight do you actually enjoy in the winter? When you get up, when you go to work, it's dark, right? When you commute home, or shortly thereafter, it's dark, right? It's the same here -- BUT only in the very darkest times, I would say about the month of December, give or take a few days on either side (I think at winter solstice we have a 4-hour daylight day).

Even if we officially may still have less actual daylight than other places at this time of year (Today the sun actually rises at 9:08 am and sets at 7:23 pm, with dawn/dusk giving us light an hour on either side), it FEELS like we have a LOT more light: since we are surrounded and covered with bright white shiny snow, and no trees or big buildings to cast many shadows, and the mountains are far to the north, walking outside on a sunny day is like walking around on a mirrored floor-- it's wildly bright! I'm willing to bet that we get our RDA of Vitamin D in a few seconds. And sunglasses are really a must for us in the springtime sun. It feels fabulous, way better than anywhere/anytime in the Midwest at this time of year.

Then, into February, we start gaining light by leaps and bounds, nearly 6 minutes a day -- that doesn't sound like a lot, but in a week that's another half hour of light, and in a month, that's two hours more light. By this time next month, it will feel like the evenings last forever, and let me tell you, my energy grows along with the light. Although sometimes I regret it in the morning, I can get SO much done with the light inspiring me and egging me on. It helps that spring is my favorite season, and that the excitement and anticipation for spring activities coming soon, soon pretty much infests everything I do.

By summer, it's just light all the time, and I love it. I love it that I have a job that lets me have a summer schedule, staying up and sleeping whenever, not knowing what time it is (especially out at camp), and just enjoying all the light. So, although folks think that the extremities of dark/light are a negative thing about living here, I think it's a positive, all the way around, because it's better than most places and never worse than anywhere else. :)

But, hey, in Iris news: She's sitting up by herself! It's kind of amazing, as it developed over just a few days this week. She's been rolling and kind of propping herself up for a while:
And then this week (she was 6 months on the 26th of February), she suddenly was able to pop herself upright, by herself:
AND she's figuring out how to push herself up into a crawling position, and rocks herself back and forth, sometimes creeping the slightest bit backwards. What a rock star baby! It's all very exciting, but I know it's near the end of us being able to be relaxed while we watch her... she'll soon be into EVERYTHING....:)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Fun (and then not so much) in stormy weather

Although our signature wild stormy weather is not fun for folks who get lost in it -- more on that later -- it's lots of fun for just playing around in when you stay close to home and dressed up safe -- when it's a warm storm like today, with temps around 25-30 degrees, but winds blowing at 50 mph and gusts stronger than that. The biggest issue in any storm here, whether it's a cold weather storm or a warm one, like today, is visibility, because the snow really makes it impossible to see very far. So Esther and I just stayed right inside the teacher housing area and enjoyed the wind safely. (Is there an Esther in this picture? Look up on top of the drift! She's hiding in the blowing snow)
The wind plus the lack of natural windbreaks makes the snow pile in drifts around buildings in interesting ways. This particular drift is right in the middle of all the teacher housing units, and some neighbor kids were tunneling through it. Fancy, Draco, Esther and I (as well as neighbor beagle Hunter) had fun going in and out of the tunnels in the ferocious wind. The wind makes even just normal actions hilarious, what I imagine people living on the space station must experience when they're getting used to zero gravity...
The article of clothing that makes or breaks a fun time outside in a storm is a pair of goggles -- yes, they can get fogged up, but it's so worth it (and if you're like me, optically challenged but unable to wear contacts, you can get the fancy goggles that have a fan to clear out the fog!) The rest of the stuff is kind of expected, the snowpants/suit, boots, coat, hat, gloves -- it's also really good to have a neckie that you can pull up over your face. Dressed like that with goggles on, you are not so bundled that you can't move, and yet you feel fairly invincible, because the wind and sharp snow isn't making it so you can't see. Wearing goggles in strong wind totally makes me feel like a superhero. Fun! Here is Esther feeling like a superhero:

So here's my recent Arctic cautionary tale, for those of us who feel like we have made it into the modern age (yes, I know I was just talking about goggles and feeling invincible) and we are safe from whatever the arctic throws at us because of our various technology -- Tina and Dane, fellow teachers and good friends, had a not-so fun experience in this storm. They actually got lost when they were trying to make it JUST from the airport to town -- barely 3/4 mile from town. I guess the plane just barely made it in, dropped them off, and the visibility got that bad in that short of a time that while they were riding on their snowmobile to town, they couldn't find town! They were lost and circling town for SIX hours, and since it was such a warm storm (meaning right at 30 degrees) much of what was coming down was sleet, and it made them wet. They were dressed great, but when their gear got wet, it wasn't much help. I guess modern technology DID help keep this situation from being tragic, because (and I guess we have GCI to thank for bringing cell phone service to Hooper Bay) without Tina being able to call on her cell, who knows if they would have been found -- but our heroic Public Safety officials AND our amazing Search and Rescue team were able to find them. The old wisdom still remains: when you realize you are lost, STAY PUT and try to build shelter. Tina and Dane were doing just this when they were found, but by this point they were near hypothermic -- when they were taken to the clinic, their body temps were 73 degrees! And Dane was snow-blind -- he had to wear cotton pads over his eyes for a couple days, and sunglasses after that.

Thank goodness they are OK, and for showing us that even on a trip to the airport, to bring survival gear. Before this, it always felt like a trip down to the airport was just a jaunt, like popping down to the convenience store. Now I am chastised! However, it also gives me respect for the ancient Yup'ik weather-wisdom, also, because there is a guy from Chevak who was lost in this storm for 4 days... when they found him, in his snow-shelter he had built, he was just fine -- wow, impressive.

In other news, Iris has begun eating food! Here are some cute pictures of her first avocadoes, for which she was very excited. She LOVED the eating experience, and it was so cute to see her enjoy it:
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