For some reason, December seems to be flying by faster than a Canada goose on its way south. Wasn't it just November last week?
Normally by this time I am fretting and fussing over the decrease in daylight; today, for example, the sun set at 3:30 p.m. and things were pretty well darkened up by four. Which means, for those of you in the Lower 48 regions, that kids in Alaska get up and go to school in the pitch darkness of morning, and return home again just as the sun sinks behind the Alaska Range.
Reflective tape, blinking lights on backpacks, and a whole lotta warm stuff encasing those little bodies makes for a more pleasant walk to the bus stop, or, in Bear's case, for standing in line outside of the school. See, our kids have returned to the good old days when parents walked three miles uphill in the snow barefoot to school. Perhaps ours are not as drastic as that, but schools in Alaska keep kids outside as much as possible, knowing, wisely, that too much indoor time makes for cranky children and teachers. So, out they go for recess and lineup times unless the temperatures are -10 F. I love it.
I try every day to get outside, myself. Not much running this week with the chilly temperatures, but a brisk hike through a snow-covered trail dressed in snow boots, two pairs of long underwear, Carhartt pants, and a down parka can make anyone break a sweat. The Dog accompanies me too, and it is quite something to watch his little whiskers freeze up after a few minutes frolicking outdoors. He has booties to wear when the temps drop below 10 above or so, dogs in Alaska get sore feet rather quickly with all the ice-melt, gravel, and dry snow mixing with their tender paws.
Today Dog and I went out from our house, south along the Fort Richardson boundary. Many in the neighborhood use these trails, including the resident moose population, so hiking around there requires the utmost in vigilance. Sun shining, snow squeaking beneath my feet and Dog sniffing everyplace for evidence of other living creatures, we headed out and up.
I thought I was watching; thought I was paying attention to the signals from Dog that something was lurking around in the willows. Certainly there was enough sign of the big ungulate beauties that hang around the trail, tracks and such; but I didn't see anybody. So I thought.
Walking through a shady section of the trail I happened to glance askance to my left. Out of the very corner of my eye, I saw her. A big cow, resting quietly in the snow and partially obscured by a few willow sticks. She was so close I could see hear breath and swear if I had reached out an arm, I would have touched her fuzzy ears. (I must state at this point that Dog still had not noticed her, duh.)
We stared at each other for a few seconds, she twitched an ear, I twitched an eye. "Oh, no," I breathed to myself (actually it was a different word).
As quietly as I could, I inched up the trail sideways, keeping one eye on Dog and one eye on Moose.
Then we went on our merry way.
Just another day in Alaska.