On the Wings of Spring

northern exposures

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Interior Alaska is a land of Serious White for much of the year. November. December. January, February and March. But here comes April and winter’s coat is looking a little tattered. It’s a good thing that next week is Spring Carnival, otherwise the river ice would be two fragile for the games.

I walked to town today under one of those brilliant skies that leave you blind when you go indoors. It was a balmy, 40 degree afternoon. Windbreaker weather – no gloves, no hood required. Delicious!

On the way home I watched the birds flitting through the trees and captured this one feeding on a black spruce. I first thought it might be a juvenile gray jay but the coloration doesn’t appear right. If you know what it is, please leave me a note.

Yes, Your Feet’s Too Big

poetry, Reflections

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Aren’t snowshoes wonderful inventions? – mathematical wonders, the trapper’s friend, even life savers.

And, of course, they are a wonderful source of fun! Here, some of our younger students race about on snowshoes. Each year we have a cultural week at school. Usually, an elder will be there to teach the youngsters how to make snowshoes of birch and hide, although the ones these students are wearing are store-bought.

I grew up in Texas. My only knowledge of snowshoes came from stories like White Fang, by Jack London:

In advance of the dogs, on wide snowshoes, toiled a man. At the rear of the sled toiled a second man. On the sled, in the box, lay a third man whose toil was over, – a man whom the Wild had conquered and beaten down until he would never move nor struggle again.

…and from poems like The Call Of the Wild, by Robert William Service:

Have you known the Great White Silence, not a snow-gemmed twig aquiver?
(Eternal truths that shame our soothing lies.)
Have you broken trail on snowshoes? mushed your huskies up the river,
Dared the unknown, led the way, and clutched the prize?
Have you marked the map’s void spaces, mingled with the mongrel races,
Felt the savage strength of brute in every thew?
And though grim as hell the worst is, can you round it off with curses?
Then hearken to the Wild — it’s wanting you.

But (and I’m not embarrassed to admit it) the memory that first comes to my mind when I see snowshoes is that of a song made popular by Fats Waller back in 1939 – the laughter rousing Your Feet’t Too Big, by Fred Fisher and Ada Benson:

Who’s that walkin’ round here? Mercy
Sounds like baby patter
Baby elephant patter that’s what I calls it

Say up in Harlem at a table for two
There were four of us, me, your big feet and you
From your ankles up, I’d say you sure are sweet
From there down there’s just too much feet

Yes, your feet’s too big
Don’t want you, ’cause you feet’s too big
Can’t use you, ’cause you feet’s too big
I really hate you, ’cause you feet’s too big

Where did you get them?
Your girl she likes you, she thinks you’re nice
Got what it takes to be in paradise
She said likes your face, she likes your ray
Man oh man them things are too big

Oh, your feet’s too big
Don’t want you, ’cause you feet’s too big
Mad at you, ’cause your feet’s too big
I hate you, ’cause your feet’s too big

My Goodness! Gun the gunboats!
Ship, ship, ship

Oh your pedal extremities are colossal
To me you look just like a fossil
You got me walkin’, talkin’ and squawkin’
‘Cause your feet’s too big, yeah

Come on and walk that thing
Oh, I’ve never heard of such walkin’, mercy
Your, your pedal extremities really are obnoxious
One never knows, do one?

Please do yourself a favor, go watch and listen to Fats Waller sing Your Feet’s Too Big, then tell me if you don’t walk a little lighter on your feet the rest of the day!

It’s An Ephemeral Thing

northern exposures

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Frost. It’s quite beautiful, and that’s too bad.

Maybe if it wasn’t so beautiful it would last longer, but you know the old saying, “beauty is fleeting.”

The high school students are skiing for PE. I can see them set off outside my window and I get a big kick out of watching them. I’ve done this in flat country before, so I know they are learning something very valuable – exactly where each of their 640 muscles are located. I’m so glad I am not in PE!

Because youth, like beauty, is fleeting, and mine has certainly fled! 🙂

Adams Leaning Wheel Grader #3, Redux

northern exposures

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I photographed this old Adams Leaning Wheel Grader #3 back in 2012 and decided to photograph it again for all the Adams’ fans who have visited that post. I would never have guessed there are so many of you out there!

Many thanks to the 300 grader aficionados who have stopped by over the past 3 years. Have another on me!

Warm Skies & Spring Fever!

northern exposures

frost-7271

Warm skies and Spring Fever are trending! It’s 12ËšF outside and climbing to 18Ëš today according to our reprieved forecaster. In fact, he says it is supposed to be warm all week long.

Twelve degrees isn’t going to make a Texan think of Spring, but it sure is stirring blood up here. Snow-gos are whizzing down the streets, people are strolling about and a major epidemic of Spring Fever has struck the village.

Kids have it. Teachers have it. I’m afraid the prognosis is poor – high fevers for the final twelve weeks of school resulting in severe learning impairment.

Let’s see, twelve weeks. That’s a week of in-service in Fairbanks and another for high school championship basketball in Anchorage – a hopeless time for learning.

A week preparing for the omniscient, infallible standardized test and another to take it.

There will be the traditional week of Carnival in Fort Yukon followed by an exodus of our students to Arctic Village for theirs.

Uh, so let me do the math here: 12 weeks less 2, less 2 more, and less 2 more equals…6 weeks!

By then, geese and ducks will be winging across the Flats and many of my kids will be seriously hunting. A successful spring hunt will put food on the table for much of the coming summer, fall and winter. Hunting is an excused activity and for good reason.

I love the last quarter of school!

Shopping For Valentine

northern exposures

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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 -2ËšF the next day. It turned out to be -3Ëš. 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!

Chasing Piggens: Heart-Warming Stories From a Frozen Land

life in a village

To all my longtime followers, stop right now and go visit Chasing Piggens. Its author, Keely, is a newcomer to the Yukon Flats and teaches in Venetie, a place even more remote than Fort Yukon (yes, there are such places).

Chasing Piggens is a love story, a tale of a young teacher from outside who finds her way to a remote village on the Arctic Circle in the dead of winter and falls head over heals in love with the land and its people. This is a tale you will not want to miss! Here’s an excerpt:

At quarter to six last night, I realized I had only enough butter left in the freezer for one batch of sugar cookies…I was looking down the barrel of a long two weeks without butter. I tucked myself into my gear and crunched my way over to the store, hoping they were open, hoping I wouldn’t leave the girls stranded in the cold, hoping they’d have butter at the store, hoping they’d be able to break a fifty.

The store is four short aisles of dry goods, a couple of coolers and freezers, and a half-shelf with some bruised and spotted and wildly expensive fruit…I snagged a couple of pounds of butter and set them on the counter. “That’s fifteen dollars” the girl said. I handed her a fifty, and she had to clean out the register to make change for me. I felt like a jerk.

~Keely

Series: After Adrian II

northern exposures

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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. Please click on Adrian’s name and visit his blog.

I am starting a short series of posts dedicated to greater boldness in my own images. I’ve named the series “After Adrian” since his work is the inspiration for the series. The intent is not to do it the way Adrian might, but to apply some of his techniques to my my work in my own ways.

The rendition of this image is more contrasty than I would normally make it and I have clipped the blacks somewhat – you can see this in portions of the fenceposts. I have also applied a vignette to the corners to add some mystery.

Let me know what you like and don’t like about it. I’m looking for analytical and objective criticism in this series, not compliments, so dive in and tell me how you really respond to it.