This represents the third Christmas in Alaska and the second holiday season we have spent in rural Alaska.
Last year, we were so grateful for that moment when the holiday lights went up, we were captivated by the extra warmth and light such a small action brought to our lives. We were excited for the first real snow that happened over Thanksgiving, and we marveled at the changing of the season. The Christmas tree went up right away and we thoroughly enjoyed every moment of this blessed season. We were so excited for our first Christmas in Kipnuk, Alaska! Read more about our adventures from last year in An Unconventional Holiday
This year, knowing that the winter holidays will be with us for a time, we are more leisurely about our approach to decorating. We are more leisurely about just about everything this year. We haven’t even identified the Christmas Crates, let alone moved things around to accommodate the holiday season. Santa’s visit to our village was a bit of a catalyst to our holiday spirit. Yet, knowing the holidays in Kasigluk, as in other Russian Orthodox villages, don’t end until January 14th, we have a LONG time to celebrate! No need to rush.
Another change we have noticed is that we are seasoned professionals at winter, or so we think. We have accumulated a wealth of outer wear for every conceivable situation: snow with wind, snow without wind, freezing rain with wind, freezing rain without wind, slushy with wind, slushy without wind, icy with wind, icy without wind, cold and clear, cold and cloudy, cold and colder, and finally…..coldest.
In fact, the weather and how cold it is, followed by a conversation on how cold it “feels” with the wind-chill, occupies a great amount of our time. One of the primary differences is that how it feels this year is much different than last year.
We have had to reset our “I’m cold” experiences. For instance, previously, if the temp is around zero with a “feels like” in the negative numbers, then the seal-skin hat with the flaps and flannel lining comes out. Additional outerwear for this situation included gloves inside of fur mittens. Nice and cozy warm – right? Um, no! The current correct response is, “Why do I have so many clothes on just to walk to the post?!?”
While Greg still appreciates being very bundled – especially with hands and feet, Kim has still resisted the seal hat in favor of snow pants and her new arctic fox Russian hat. Make no mistake, it is still cold, it is our relationship with the cold which has changed. WE have changed.
The same conversation can be had around the growing darkness. It is no longer creates apprehension. For in the dark, we can see the amazing stars and auroras, in the darkness we gather ourselves together and rest our spirits. In the cold and dark, the Tundra rests and we, like her, rejuvenate for the next seasonal shift – even though it is months away.
In the cold and dark, nothing really happens quickly. Post comes slowly, if at all. Provisions are difficult to get and the occasional trip to Bethel, while important for work, has the secondary purpose of restocking the pantry. And we always hope that we get home without being weathered over. The handy Ceiling Gauge at Yute Commute tell it all!
So, let me tell you about the light! In the light, people are out walking. We wave at all we meet, even if we don’t recognize people under their layers, hats, mittens, and coats. In the light we can visit about the latest happenings in the village, “Did you know….?” In the light, we renew our connections with the amazing people we live with her in Kasigluk! In the light, a few people are out on the frozen river ice fishing and walking. In the light, we can experience the warmth and joy of living in such a singular place!
It is with gratitude for our abundance that we enter this holiday season. We go there with measured intent knowing that the next several months will be about rest and renewal!
Next up: Happy New Year