I promised myself that I would add one of these stories here every time I told one. I tell them at one point or another throughout the summer. There will be no chronology - not yet anyway - nor will there be much of a schedule. You never know; I might add a story every day and I might not. This is my life. Every day is an adventure.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Battle for Season

The wind hums through the trees, sometimes a light breeze, sometimes a wannabe gale, struggling hard to push back the sun's heat.

The sun shines bright, higher and higher every day, five minutes longer than the day before, patiently advancing toward spring despite the wind's struggles.

The snow is now polished to a high sheen, glowing brightly in the afternoon sun. One step, once covered with a bit of packed snow, now only has a small patch and may be dry tomorrow. A small gas can, once covered by the last snow, is now visible, as if the last snow never happened. I went out and got my buckets of snow today, discovering in the process that the sheen was all polish and no ice, one small victory for the wind, in the battle over season.

The not-so-pretty part about this time of year.... They call these months the starving months. It was -1.1F this morning when I got up, and got up to about 10F during the heat of the day. For the assorted creatures out there, most food is either buried deep or frozen very hard, and if not enough stores were hidden away, and even if it was, it would be running low. Heaven forbid the industrious squirrel forgot where one of his stashes was hidden.

Small birds chatter merrily as they flit from tree to tree, searching desperately for seeds the wind might have left behind.

Moose eat the tender shoots and branch ends from the assorted bushes and small deciduous trees - whatever they can reach. Plenty of those still visible, but thanks to the incessant wind, such browse is freeze-dried, as evidenced by an orange-red pee spot too small for a moose and yet way too big for anything else. His struggles clearly visible as he plows chest deep through the snow in search of something he or another hasn't already found earlier.

The tracks I saw, or didn't see, as I walked to the river this afternoon. One moose. I suppose it's possible there were two, but I doubt it; I didn't think to try to count. The tracks were old but the trails were still quite clear. Young, maybe two years old, pretty young to be all alone, though not unheard of. Since he was peeing red I doubt he'll make it to spring, but I can always hope.

I didn't see any squirrel tracks, and I don't recall hearing one, but that doesn't really mean much, it was pretty cold.

I didn't see any rabbit tracks, but that doesn't mean much either, there's not many around - too many coyotes. Then again, I haven't heard any coyotes calling either, but that's not saying much, they don't call during the day all that much.

Mice, well mice don't leave many tracks this time of year, though I have seen some here and there throughout the winter. Nothing is going to bother the mouse population, they're safe and sound in their grass-lined tunnels deep under the snow where all the grass and their seeds are free for the taking - industrious little creatures. When the snow is all gone, there will be an impressive maze left behind to be raked up or merely obscured by new growth.

Spring is coming, I can feel the heat in the sun, though the wind is still out of the north and quite cold. The snow is very dry, still less than a third of a bucket of water per bucket packed with snow, and I pack it as hard as I can. I'm concerned that the rivers will be late in filling, delaying my going to work. Then again, last spring the sun heated us up to 80F for nearly a week in May, which got me there in time to meet the first employees getting off the plane - that's a first.

Tomorrow is the start of the Iditarod sled dog race - The Last Great Race. Ride a sled behind a team of a dozen or so dogs all the way to Nome. It's an amazing spectacle. Watching it on TV, well, watching it on TV just isn't the same. This year will be a cold one for them. The moose will be dangerous, willing to fight for what little solid footing the trail may provide to give them a break from plowing through the deep snow, even if only for a little while.


SJ said...

I love your descriptions. I can visualise it just by reading. I'm sure as spring deepens into the year there will be plenty of tracks and opportunities to spot their owners and I look forward to hearing about them.

Anna L. Walls said...

Thanks Sarah. Pictures are difficult for me to load so I must make the most of my thousand words, haha.

Mari S. Wilbur said...

You blog is delightful - I love your writing style. I'd love to see the Iditarod in person!! That would be an amazing site. I hope all goes well for the teams.

Debbie said...

I've always wanted to go to Alaska, for now I will just read your blog. You explain things with such detail.. Thanks for sharing

Anna L. Walls said...

Thanks for stopping by Mari and Debbie. It is my greatest hope that I am able to show you my life as best as I can.

sulekkha said...

What a lovely read!! Enjoyed the pictures you painted with your words. Thanks for sharing.

Roy Durham said...

i hope the moose makes it found one Saturday that was road killed. did you know that "moose" means twig eater american Indian Lagrange fun visit good post

Royal Nirupam said...

Bah..Bah..enchanting, adorable way of writing,will visit now and then.
Thanks: Nirupam

Roy Durham said...

how would like a heated water bucket?
there maybe one on its way.

Anna L. Walls said...

Glad you liked it, Sulekkha, and very glad my words can paint a picture for you.

I'm glad you liked it too, Royal. Welcome back any time. I wish we could share stories over a cup of coffee.

Roy, no I didn't know that 'moose' means twig eater. Makes sense though. It makes me wonder what the natives up here call them and what it translates to.

A heated bucket sounds nice but that would require 'power'. Ambient heat works just fine. My husband has been trying to convince me to use a big trash can for water but that's so hard to clean out. I'll stick with my dozen five gallon buckets - they stack nicely and go outside when they're empty. Thanks anyway. haha

Anonymous said...

I love your description of the weather an how sensitive you are to to the nuances of heat and wind. "The starving months." Great stuff!

Debra said...

Anna, I can see why writing is your obsession, you're so good at it! You put your reader out in the cold along with those poor animals - but that's the whole point - to transport us to Alaska! Enjoyed the visit, but not sure I'd want to live there. But then again, maybe I'd adjust just fine eventually.

Lou Barba said...

Hi Ana,

It sounds like you have the best of both worlds. Simplicity combined with the internet. Ah, the miracles of modern technology!

Kriti said...

Loved being here Anna - you paint a picture with your words. Can't wait to read more.