First Day of Winter

northern exposures

Zero degrees. Snow depth fourteen inches.

Yesterday was winter solstice. Today is the first day of winter. Ha, now I can expect some cold!

I took this photograph of rabbit tracks two months ago, when it was a bit easier to find enough light to photograph things. I had mentioned the unusual appearance of new fallen snow a post or two back, then saw this image and realized it shows exactly what I was trying to describe. See? It looks like felt or sifted flour, or maybe a coarse matte finish – almost as though it had been airbrushed onto our village.

Winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year and the beginning of winter. At 12:49 pm yesterday the sun was about 1 degree above the horizon and barely able to peek above the Alaskan Range to the south of us. Today Sol is a bit higher and the day 1 minute longer. We’ll have about 3 hours of daylight and another few hours of twilight before dark sets in.

In Weeks Field Park, behind the Noel Wien Library in Fairbanks there stands a sundial built by Martin Gutoski. Martin fashioned it from a bent airplane prop and a piece of pipe, and if today were sunny, then at high noon you would see the sun shining through the prop and highlighting the word “winter.” We are headed to Fairbanks for some R&R. Our flight leaves about noon, so we should arrive in Fairbanks at its brightest. We’ll stay at our favorite place, Sophie Station. Very expensive during the tourist season, but in winter a very reasonable $75 a day for a suite with full kitchen, great living room, comfortable beds and wonderful service.

Oh, about the rabbit tracks. Rabbits used to be very plentiful in Fort Yukon, but the past few years they have been on the decline. This year, though, our neighbors tell us the rabbits are coming back. It seems their numbers have risen and fallen like this for generations. I’m not sure why but will try to find out. I have learned to build rabbit snares and hope to try my hand at it in March.

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