One Man's Paradise

Soliloquy

A monologue addressed to oneself, thoughts spoken out loud without addressing anybody else.


Sometimes I just take it in.

Sometimes words come out. Since it’s just me and the winter wonderland, it’s a soliloquy.


To sit,

to stare outdoors,

and by a stare to seem to state

Henry N. Beard
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One Man's Paradise

Surf’s Up

A winter storm advisory was in effect this weekend. Luckily it did not come with tornadoes. However, warning signs had been posted along the main highway: “Stay at home if possible”. Well, for some of us the opposite applies. A winter storm often brings a good swell to the ocean and that means surf is up. 5 foot swells were predicted and the forecast did not disappoint. Water temperature: 42 F, air temperature: 6 F. Does that mean the photographer was colder than the surfers? Not sure. It seems daring to me to jump into the ocean before sunrise, wait for a good wave to form, ride for 30 seconds or less knowing that you will eat it at the end. Anyways, great fun to watch.

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One Man's Paradise

50 Shades of Blue

The notion that there are 50 words for snow in the Inuit-Yupik languages has been discredited, although it makes complete sense to me to that language vocabulary reflects the speaker’s view of the World. Anyways, I think there should be 50 words for Blue, at least in the Arctic. On a sunny winter day the sky is reflected in the snow, which results in many hues of Blue.


“If you see a tree as blue, then make it blue.”

Paul Gauguin

At the same token, on overcast days, we get 50 shades of Gray (no pun intended).

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One Man's Paradise

Bluebird Days

Skiers refer to a bluebird day as a beautiful sunny day, often after an overnight snowfall. What did the bluebirds have to do with this? Bluebirds are a group of brightly colored birds in the thrush family, native to the Americas. Apparently the Iroquois believed their call could chase away Sawiskera, the spirit of winter.


“The bluebird carries the sky on his back.”

Henry David Thoreau

Anyways, bluebird days are always welcome in my books. And it is not even winter yet…

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One Man's Paradise

Koviashuvik №2

“Koviashuvik is not what it was when we first moved into the Wilderness of the Brooks Range. We did not know what to expect because we had never spent a winter alone in the Arctic. We thought we knew what to expect but there is a difference between knowing and knowing. Yes there is a difference between knowing that the temperature will drop to sixty degrees below zero on the Fahrenheit scale, and knowing there will be no direct sunlight for nearly three months, and knowing a steady fire is necessary in the Yukon stove to keep a 12 by 12 foot log cabin warm. This we knew, but we did not know how good it was the way we know now, which is why we call it Koviashuvik.”

Sam Wright

I can relate to that. I spent last winter in a small cabin in the Brooks Range, North of the Arctic Circle. It was indeed a time and place of joy. Not the loud, exuberant joy of the city, but more the quiet, powerful kind. Nature would dominate my days. Needed to gather snow and melt it for drinking water (and washing dishes), keep the furnace going so my cabin would be livable, catch every sun ray I could and wait for the Northern lights.

So simple. The picture above was taken on one of those nights. The moon was so bright it would cast shadows of the trees in the snow. The Northern lights were out, but they were muted by the moonlight. Nevertheless, they performed their silent dance.


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One Man's Paradise

Anticipation

Winter made his first foray into central Alaska with snow and freezing temperatures. It seems unreal to read about fall colors just arriving in parts of the lower 48s. Nevertheless, the writing is on the wall: Winter is coming. I am taking it easy, currently. No work commitment, no deadlines. That gives me time to go through memory cards from last winter that are still loaded with some unedited images.

It makes quite a difference to sit in a warm cabin and look at the pictures taken at dawn, the coldest time of the day, when it takes some determination to step outside and set up the camera. In February the lowest temp was -45 degrees Fahrenheit. For most people that’s cold.

Nevertheless, the light and sounds in those circumstances are remarkable, I can’t say much about scent, since nose hair are frozen and nerve endings seem temporarily disengaged. Well, here are some pictures that bring back memories of a silent, cold winter morning in the Brooks Range.


Never forget that anticipation is an important part of life. Work’s important, family’s important, but without excitement, you have nothing. You’re cheating yourself if you refuse to enjoy what’s coming.”

― Nicholas Sparks


Ah, the quote. Why am I writing this? Am I looking forward to another winter in Alaska? The jury is still out on that. However, I am looking forward to unrestricted travel and a manageable pandemic. Please do your part to get this outbreak under control.

Cheers

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One Man's Paradise

Appreciation

While others celebrate the end of summer, in the Arctic we experience the beginning of winter with below freezing temperatures and 24 hours of steady snowfall.

After a wet summer there were a few gorgeous fall days, a rich blueberry harvest, and a few memorable wildlife encounters. Without much warning winter did return and threw his white blanket on the landscape.

There is no question in my mind that this harsh and beautiful place deserves our appreciation and protection.



“You won’t save what you don’t love and you can’t love what you don’t know.”

Jacques Cousteau
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Dispatches from the Corona Experiment

Dispatches from the Cold – № 1

In the spirit of pandemic isolation I moved from a comfy city apartment to an off-grid cabin in the woods. Was it cold? Glad you ask. The thermometer I trusted most showed negative 42.5 Celsius, there were others that showed even lower numbers, but give or take a few degrees below -40 degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit, that’s cold!

The first indication of this frigid situation were shiny crystals covering all surfaces of the interior. They were inside the cabinets, on the walls, just about everywhere.

Then there were the door nobs. Turning a door knob with bare hands caused some instant burning sensation. Same thing with the house key. One of the cabins has an outside key lock. You punch in a number and then remove the key to open the door. My skin turned instantly white where I had touched the metal box, the key pad and the key. I did that only once with my bare hands.

When I took of my boots, a cloud of hot air rose from my feet, as if they were on fire. It was just warm humidity hitting the biting cold air.

The last memorable impression was the mattress. Frozen solid. Sleep number 1000. It was hard as rock. I slept the first night in with three layers of winter gear until the cabin had warmed up. There are still some corners low on the ground where I could see ice crystals. I use those corners as my indoor fridge.


“Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary.”

Henry David Thoreau


Now, a day later its nice and cozy, grace to a propane furnace. Hope that thing will keep me warm for the rest of winter. That furnace, insulated walls and an arctic entry way, are the only thing separating me from the bitter cold.

I hope there will be more dispatches from the cold with more agreeable temperatures, though.

Stay warm.

Stay safe.

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Inside Out

Waiting for the Sun III

First light in the Arctic. It’s already noon when the sun brushes the mountain tops. The valleys remain in the shade where frost keeps accumulating on the occasional shrub. Not before long the sun will dip below horizon. Twilight for a few more hours. Then darkness, except for the sparkling stars. That’s the rhythm of winter.


“Besides, I’ve been feeling a little blue — just a pale, elusive azure. It isn’t serious enough for anything darker.”

L.M. Montgomery
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