Sunday, March 25, 2012

Notes from here and there

Ugh. It's too danged warm:

When we go out skiing or skijoring, the girls pant, and I get all sweaty.

But we still cuddle:

Saturday night, my friend MMS and his wife MH had a party to celebrate his successful thesis defense. I don't often attend their parties since they live in a remote area about 45 minutes away. Here is the view from their land:

Lovely, eh?

Oh, in case you were wondering, this is how little dogs stay warm outdoors:

There were two of these HUGE puppies, who belonged to a neighbor:

She told me that they were Inuit dogs, and would be about 120 pounds when fully grown. I think that means that they are from Greenland or Siberia, or maybe Canada, because in Alaska, our Northern people are called "Inupiaq", not "Inuit", although they are related. Inupiaq and Inuit dogs are bigger and furrier, and culturally, they are not as integrated into the family as Athabascan dogs (like Autumn and Linden), are. I think that's why Eskimo dogs aren't generally as sweet and friendly. Athabascans love their doggies and breed for sweetness and cuddlywuddlyness!

The Tanana at this time of year becomes a regular highway. There is very little virgin snow left. It looks nothing like it does earlier in the winter, when the girls and I have the river pretty much to ourselves.

Today we skijored down to visit Howard Luke, who is the last Athabascan man living on the site of the old village, as well as the only person I know who lives on the other side of the Tanana. He lives alone out there among his combination of traditional and modern trappings--his old chinked log cabin with a solar panel on the roof, his food cache next to his wind turbine, his snow machine and his smokehouse--but he isn't lonely. Friends come by to visit and help him with chores (he's in his mid-80's now), and he goes into town to give educational talks. In the summer, he holds Gaalee’ya Spirit Camp, in which he teaches children Native skills such as sled building and how to make an outdoor shelter.

We chatted a bit, and he told me how to heal up some of my cuts and scrapes, and I helped him figure out how to set a live trap that another friend had brought him to catch a weasel that had been stealing his drymeat. ("I have plenty of traps, but I don't want to kill this guy, so I borrowed this live trap. I'm going to release him far away. Unless you want him?"). As I left he eyed my light fleece and thin gloves. "Where is your parka and your mittens?" I pointed out that it was 30 degrees F outside, and that I actually had a light jacket in my bag, but had taken it off. "That's how people freeze to death," he said. "They take off their clothes when they are warm, and they freeze to death." I looked out the window at the warm sun shining onto the current river traffic (four dog teams giving rides to tourists, four skate skiers, two classic skiers, and about a dozen snow machiners), then nodded my head and put on my coat and mittens. After I rounded the island and lost sight of the his cabin, I peeled them off and stuffed them into my bag.

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