Come Quickly, May!

life in a village

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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!

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! 🙂

Witch’s Glass

northern exposures

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Snowed last night and all day today. Tiny crystals, slow and steady. Some believe that deeper snow somehow keeps the severe cold at bay.

There really is a connection between snow depth and temperature, but the cause and effect are reversed. Most snowfall occurs at moderate temperatures (around 15 F / -10 C). Colder air holds less moisture and really cold air usually doesn’t contain enough wet stuff to make snow.

It is the Hallowed Eve. There will be goblins about tonight, snow or not!

Frosted Hips

northern exposures

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Everything happened at once. We fell below the zero mark for the first time this morning. The mercury registered -3 F (-19 C) as we left for work. Ice fog had begun rolling in off the river, swathing our village in frost. It remained all day and many of my students elected to brave the cold to get some pictures this afternoon. What dedicated photographers!

This is the frost season, my favorite time of year.

Where the Poplar Grows

northern exposures

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I walk the path along the riverbank under sheltering trees. Willow, poplar and alder grow here. The spruce grow farther back, on dryer ground along with an occasional aspen & birch. In the summer, all is green, but now all leaves but spruce have turned golden and will soon carpet the path I walk.

I have been teaching my 8th graders to identify these trees. We have pressed their leaves and this week we will landscape the front of our school with aspen.

Flower Of the Yukon

northern exposures

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I like to tell my family how our cabin is surrounded by wild roses, but that’s nothing special. The rose is everywhere around our village and across the Flats. They lend color to every season. Delicate pink blossoms in Springtime. Ruby red hips in the Fall. And on Winter’s final approach its leaves put on a wild array of colors, all rusted and speckled, deepening into scarlet and orange as Jack Frost kisses the mornings.