I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but I need a cuteness break, right about now.
So, I’m going to post some pics of these little birds we get here over the summer. they usually arrive in April or May, and it seems like they disappear with the first few snows of the Fall, so usually by October. I’m told they are called “snow buntings.” I don’t think these critters are really all that unusual. I probably saw plenty of snow buntings when I lived in the lower 48, but I sure notice them a lot more now. Their arrival is a welcome sign that what counts as Spring here is actually starting to happen. I hear them singing first in the Spring often without actually seeing any for a couple weeks. Finally, the numbers get large enough to enjoy the sites.
Love these little guys!
I took these pics over the last couple summers. (Click to embiggen!)
Moni and I spent the last couple hours before midnight, waffling as to whether or not we were going to head out and watch the fireworks show. See, fireworks don’t mean much up this way around early July. The big fireworks display in Barrow occurs on January First. And with most people in their cars (because it’s cold out there!), social distancing is a big can-do for this kind of thing. We heard different things about the prospects for fireworks this year, but in the end, the celebration was on. …not-so-much the gatherings that normally occur in the school afterwards, but fireworks? That part was definitely on! Only thing is Moni and I were both tired and feeling rather wimpy about the cold. In the last hour, we had decided we were definitely not going. Then decided to go in the last 15 minutes before midnight.
Hopefully, our inability to make a decision last night has more to do with the lingering effects of 2020 than the coming patterns of 2021. Either way, it was beautiful. I missed the chance to record the grand finale, and if my hand could talk, it would have been calling me names the entire time, but I recorded a decent chunk of the celebration. Moni got the finale.
Anyway, 2020 is finally behind us. Happy New Year!
One of the first things I did when I moved to Barrow was walk out onto the tundra with my little Backberry phone and try to get some pictures of a snowy owl that stayed out behind the college here. He would stare at me as I approached and then fly away just as I was almost in range for a decent photo, only to land a hundred feet or so away and stare calmly at me as I repeated my efforts. I almost got some decent pics of that guy. All day, I almost got them.
There was something the way that owl just watched me approach. It was a forgone conclusion. It wasn’t going to get THAT close, so he was in no hurry to fly away. He took off just as I was about to get close enough for a decent pic, and he went just far enough to re-establish his own comfort zone, and incidentally to tempt me to engage in one more round of effort.
These days, I have an actual camera. I’m still a bit clumsy with a lens, but my camera is smart enough to compensate for some of my photo-foolishness, and the result is a (hopefully) passable batch of owlitations. Most of them were taken the summer before last. This year, there just didn’t seem to be enough hot lemming action to draw a big owly crowd. Anyway, …owls!
I had already booked a work-related flight to Fairbanks when Covid19 began spreading through the U.S. I remember talking about it with Moni in the days before I flew, and especially the night before I was to go. We seriously talked about cancelling the trip, but I thought it best to follow through with my plans. By the time the plane hit ground the next day, pubic sentiment had shifted from something along the lines of “maybe wear a mask, wash your hands a lot, and avoid crowds” to something more like “don’t go out at all, definitely wear a mask, and start shutting down the businesses. By the time I left Fairbanks 3 days later, the University was all but closed and restaurants were take-out only. Touching people, even to shake hands, was not done. Needless to say, I didn’t get much done. I felt pretty relieved to get home safely.
And then there was a period when we were all just locked down and travel wasn’t really an option.
I felt this.
I felt it in my teeth.
And in my stomach.
I had already scheduled a visit with an oral surgeon. He was to take the remains of 2 molars out the right side of my mouth, hopefully before the botched cap on my left side fell out and left me on a solid yogurt diet.
As the time of Covid stretched on, and people began to realize this wasn’t ending any time soon, I started to think about flying south to get my teeth done after all. With the help of her sister (a nurse), Moni had the safety precautions down to a science, and we started making limited forays out of the arctic. I still cringe at the thought of leaving the state, but with a little planning, I feel like we can get down to Anchorage and get what needs doing done. We can even venture pout of our room a bit, in which case we figure it’s best to keep going right out of town.
One good thing about Alaska, some of the best things about it take you well away from other people.
Still got one last procedure before I can sink my teeth into a proper steak. I would prefer to hunker down completely for the next few months, but I may need to risk one more trip. In the meantime, it occurs to me that I haven’t done a proper poto-gallery in awhile. So, here are a few pictures from recent travels. This of course includes a few drives around town, and maybe a few from before the pandemic. Anyway, …pics!
(Click the pics to embiggen them. You know you wanna!)
I know! Most of y’all will get a few more of these, but no so, those of us up here in Barrow. Our last sunset was yesterday. I’m told we can expect to be overrun by vampires any moment. We hear about that every year, actually, but this being 2020 and all, it seems like it actually might happen this time.
Anyway, I was flying up from Anchorage yesterday, caught a couple pictures of the sunset as the plane came in for a landing. Turns out, my nephew, Danielito, was filming the sunset on the ground, and he caught my plane coming in.
I thought I’d share this little gem currently on display in the Anchorage Museum. It’s called “The End of Everything” by Thomas Chung. I’m sorry, the photo-quality is really crap. Just thought the content was worth sharing despite that. Anyway, here is what Chung has to say about it:
“The painting explores why we may, at times, dehumanize others. It reflects our current political times, which are brewing with hatred and conflict. The cowboy character riding the bomb represents the male American ideal, while the cherubs represent the many living forms of bigotry from the past and present. The graffiti on the polar bear comes from posters repeatedly disseminated around the University of Alakas Anchorage’s campus this year by white supremacists as part of a larger campaign.”
I have papers to grade. So, I guess summer is really over.
I was planning to take it easy this summer, but it didn’t exactly work out that way. A move across town took up a lot more time than Moni and I expected. Our trip to Valdez is still the highlight of the season for me, but I also made it down to Montana on a work-related trip and down again to Fairbanks to help put on the Motif Film Festival. When I wasn’t traveling or taking boxes upstairs, I was busy working on class materials and whatnot. Suffice to say, it was an interesting summer.
One of the most interesting things about this particular summer is just how long the sea ice seemed to remain intact, and how long much of it stuck around shore. It seems like this last winter got started late (snow didn’t start sticking here in Barrow until well into October), so I suppose it’s fitting in some sense that the remnants of that winter would linger a bit. It certainly made for some beautiful views. Few sites compare to the midnight sun shining down on an entire ocean served on the rocks, so to speak.
Yeah, people do swim in this stuff, usually just for a minute or two, just long enough to say they did it.
Other people do this.
(Click to embiggen.)
Okay, this might not be sea ice
…and the world gets diagonal
Looks like I tweaked this pic a lot, but I really didn’t tweak it much
The cloud here steals the show.
Clear and peaceful evening
A little sea life in the fog there.
Hadda zoom a bit for this one
A touch of yellow
This little guy really wanted me off his beach
An ice bow, some sea ice, and an annoying little blue dot.
Sorry, for the poor quality of this video, and in particular for my very shaky hand.