Come Quickly, May!

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January – February – March – April – May

This time of year speeds by so quickly that it blurs my vision. In-service in Fairbanks for a week…then a week of school…now March Madness and another week away from school as chaperone to our team…another week of school…a week of those infallible standardized tests overlapping the week of our carnival…a second week of carnival in Venetie…a third week of carnival in Arctic Village…geese arrive…ducks arrive…school’s out.

Of course, the architects of our marvelous one-size-fits-all system of education think they know better than we, so they have mandated that we give their remarkable test during our week of carnival. Okay, here is a mathematical problem for you:

standardized tests > a week of fun and games

True or False?

The village isn’t about to change the carnival date because that is a traditional thing, and besides, carnival can’t be delayed because the river will become unsafe for the spring games. The kids aren’t about to go to bed early because the nights must be fiddled and danced into the wee hours of the morning. Oh, and the kids won’t be taking their time on the tests because carnival begins at 2 pm everyday. Put down those pencils and get down to the river!

Life is very different here. Arctic Village, Venetie and Fort Yukon families are interconnected, so many of my students will disappear for two weeks after our carnival to spend time with their relations. And hunting is essential to the subsistence way of life, so when the geese come the kids will leave again.

Oh, did I mention that my students must study simple machines, electricity, magnetism and other forms of energy? And complete the yearbook? and create science fair projects? all before school is over?

The baby spruce are pushing their way through the snow now. They know winter’s end is near. We do, too.

Come quickly, May, come quickly!

Shopping For Valentine

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Just a week ago we were still in the embrace of a long & bitter cold spell. We had experienced 40 to 50 below for thirteen days out of sixteen when the forecaster called for -2˚F the next day. It turned out to be -3˚. Pretty good guess – good enough to save the weatherman the one way trip to Siberia that some of us were planning for him.

It is Valentine’s Day today. What do you do for your girl in a place with one general store and the only other form of entertainment is checking your mailbox at the post office? I opted to shop at the store.

The extension cords for keeping your car warm look nice, but we don’t have a car anymore – gave it away to a friend who needed it more. Wait, maybe a paperback romance! No, their space on the little revolving wire rack has been filled with chips. Surely there’s something here that will make Lindsay feel special…

They have needles and thread. Come on Dave, you can do better than this.

Canning jars? Momma said never give work disguised as a gift.

Hey, what’s this? N-e-t-i P-o-t. What the #@&* is that?

Isn’t there some perfume here somewhere, or some bath powder? Girls love bath powder, don’t they? Haha – here??? Not within 150 miles! There’s bar soap. Yeah, Valentine will implode if I give her a bar of Ivory.

Look at all those little Valentine heart candies on the shelf! Too bad we already ate a trillion of those at school yesterday.

Hey, ice cream, they have ice cream! Oh, but all of it melted (I mean it totally liquified) earlier this week when the store freezer went kaput. That’ll taste like disappointment.

Look, there’s still some chocolate on the shelf! Oh, thank heaven for chocolate! One Almond Snickers, one single serving package of Oreos, one Fig Newton bar.

One very grateful and contented girlfriend! I am so lucky!

Series: After Adrian 1

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Adrian Lewis lives in Bristol, UK. I admire his work very much and I was explaining to him how the boldness of his images challenges me to get out of the ruts. I hope you will visit his blog and enjoy his photographs. I am starting a short series of posts dedicated to striving for greater boldness in my own, especially in the shadow regions. It is something Adrian is quite passionate about, so I thought I would apply some of his preferences to my own editing and name the series “After Adrian.” Of course, this is all sort of an interpretation of an interpretation, and I have no idea if Adrian would treat these pictures as I did.

This first image of a rose hip in snow also appears in my last post titled “Leftovers”. I wasn’t happy with the way it turned out for the previous post and thought that increasing the contrast might embolden it a bit. Let me know which version you prefer. I’ve added the previous version to this post as well so you can compare them. Or should that be contrast them?

Leftovers

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Haha. Here’s scraping the bottom of the barrel, hoping it warms up because this morning -54˚F came knocking on my door. Hey, I’m out of good stuff and I need to get out of this cabin and makes some pictures! Warm up, already!

Not really happy with the way these images turned out. Much duller than I expected when I edited them. Oh, well. They are leftovers.

Here are the lows in ˚F for the past 16 days ( most days warmed up into the -30’s for 3 or 4 hours in the afternoon):

  • -45
  • -49
  • -50
  • -50
  • -50
  • -50
  • -34
  • -29
  • -32
  • -45
  • -47
  • -50
  • -50
  • -50
  • -50
  • -54

The forecaster says we’ll see -2˚F tomorrow. We’ll see about that. It’s 9:20 pm and -44˚. 🙂

11 of 15

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Forty nine below. Again! That makes 11 of 15 days that we have been in the forty’s or fifty’s. Most of the planes have stopped. Morning church services are cancelled. Haven’t heard a snow-go all morning, or a car for that matter.

It’s so cold, even the ravens are off shivering somewhere. At thirty below, their fly-bys outside our living room window are so frequent that I sometimes think of naming my backyard “Raven Alley”. Maybe I’ll post a sign out there and make it official. But I haven’t seen them lately.

I think we are ready to run our weather forecaster out of the country. I hear Siberia is nice this time of year. He says it is supposed to warm up this week, though, so I’m giving him one last chance. It’s 10 below by Friday or else!

Shaking Hands At Forty Below

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Today is a really cold day, as most have been recently. It began at -50˚F.

The temperature has fallen below the -40˚ mark ten days out of the past fourteen, all the way down to -50˚F on six of those.

We’ve weathered colder temperatures for two or three days at a time but I don’t remember such a prolonged period of cold during our lifetime here.

No long walks right now. Breathing comes hard and stabs like needles. Super-chilled air shrinks the skin on contact. One of my students came to school with frostbite on his face last week.

Forty below is the magic mark when Gabriel Fahrenheit and Anders Celsius finally shake hands and agree upon something. But only for a moment. By the time Gabriel is declaring the temperature to be -50˚, Anders is arguing that it is only -45˚.

So how do we combat the bitter cold? We curl up with popcorn and a good movie. Today’s feature? Charade, starring the impeccable Cary Grant and the adorable Audrey Hepburn.

Stay warm!

Tell Me a Story

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Once, Fort Yukon boasted a hospital, hotels and stores; they are all gone now. But we do have abandoned cabins, lots of them. I like old things. I must get that from Dad. Old homesteads intrigued him, and he would always muse, “I wonder what stories those walls could tell?”

This winter there seems to be no end to the rosy hues the sun casts over our village. You can see it in the pictures above. I’m an almost die-hard realist when it comes to my photography and usually take a less-is-more approach to editing, especially when it comes to color and contrast. I tend to fudge more on brightness levels.

Dad was a realist with his photography, too. He often told me so. I’ll never forget the time he was walking around an old abandoned homestead when he found a patch of lantana, a pretty flowering plant native to much of Texas. He took a few pictures of it, but this twig from some tree was right in the middle of his composition. It really bothered him, so he reached in there, removed it, and took his last and best picture of that plant. A few days later, that hand broke out in the most awful, itchy rash. We looked at the picture together and I started to laugh. Not only was there a twig messing up his composition, there was poison ivy in it, too, only he hadn’t recognized it. “I’ll never mess with a picture again,” said Dad. That one never made his favorites list.