Thirty below. Snow depth 20 inches.
Jesus walked on water by the power of His Word. We humbly wait for the Yukon to freeze over, a clear admission of our finiteness. As you can see, we do more than walk across it. All the evidence supports the regular comings and goings of trucks, sleds and snow-gos on the Yukon this time of year. I believe some of the villagers collect their firewood across the river which might account for the traffic.
Morning breaks overcast but the afternoon clears and I hike along the river for an hour. There is a well-ordered routine to my picture taking. I always pack two extra sets of batteries because the cold will drain a brand new set before I get home. I keep my camera in the inside breast pocket of my winter coat where my body heat keeps it warm. It is easier to reach and quicker to retrieve if I store it in my big outer pocket but the cold knifes through that one as though it were made of gauze, freezing the retractable camera lens and killing the batteries in minutes. When I find a subject, I choose my vantage point and rehearse every move. I remove my right outer glove and clutch it in my teeth, unzip my coat enough to fumble the camera out of the inner pocket, turn it on and take the picture, then put away the camera and batten down my hatches. The thick layers of clothing and biting cold make it a slower process than it sounds and in the short moment that my hand is exposed, it is compromised by the sub-zero air. I know the chill will be cumulative and that my hand will not fully recover its warmth; it is always this way. So I shoot quickly, conservatively, only what seems to hold the most promise. Today though, the very best pictures get away. A dogsled sneeks upon me from behind, speeds past and disappears while I am still fumbling with the zipper on my coat.
Later I see at least fifteen brace of ptarmigan but they are too quick, too shy for me to capture though I try several times to the extreme detriment of my right hand. I meet another neighbor on the road as I admire the ptarmigan hopscotching along in the willows ahead of me just out of camera’s reach. T and I introduce ourselves and he tells me that ptarmigan are quite tasty, like chicken. They are much bigger than I expect, like very large cornish hens and they are as white as the snow, except their underside tail feathers appear to be black or very dark brown. They are quite beautiful and fly with surprising grace and speed for birds of their size.
I think I’ll invite a brace of ptarmigan to dinner some evening.