I have created my own Arctic winter day of night, right here in Wasilla; the new Uiñiq - front cover
I think I must be homesick for Barrow and the Arctic Slope, for those long nights that extend all the way through the day with no sun ever rising; those all-day nights during which, if one wants, one can slip into the comfort of a warm cacoon of darkness, hidden and protected there from the glare of world.
I think I must be homesick for this because, to the degree that is possible, I have converted Wasilla into a place where the winter sun never rises. Actually, it does, for just a few hours, but I go to sleep before those hours begin and wake up after they have passed.
So I do not see the sun. It is as if it never rose at all.
Today, I arose at 3:38 PM, pretty much right at the moment of sundown. It was time to head out for my regular afternoon coffee break, even though I had begun no task that I needed to take a break from, and to head to the drive-through of Metro Cafe, which is exactly what I did. I took this picture along the way. Admittedly, this is not a very good picture - I missed the good picture by a few seconds. It happened while I was too far back to get it, although I could have if I had had a bigger lens on the camera.
In the good picture, the one that I missed, the school bus had stopped and all of a sudden a whole passel of kids shot out and in a line sprinted through this little patch of light.
Oh, did it look neat!
By the time I got close enough to take that excellent shot, it was gone. A straggler got off and headed through the light, so I took this picture, so that I could tell you all about the one I had missed.
A couple of hours later, Margie was about to fix dinner. For some strange reason, I felt very hungry and decided that this a night to go out for steak - something we do maybe once every couple of years or so.
So we did, and here were are, at Denali Family Restaurant, where we had never tried dinner before. Margie had a chicken fried steak. They had a special that covered their New York steaks - $3.00 off but still pretty darned expensive, so I ordered one. The baked potato was very good, the roll was delicious - tasted like it might have been fresh out of the oven - and the once frozen half-ear of corn on the cob tasted the way corn on the cobs that have been frozen tend to taste.
The New York steak - it was okay. Not great, but okay and being okay it still tasted good. One would not call it "superb," "exquisite," "mouth watering" or anything like that. It was okay. Good enough.
Afterward, our waitress asked us if we wanted dessert, but we declined and went home, where I scooped up some Rocky Road out of the carton and made myself an ice cream cone.
I am happy to report that my shingles are diminishing. They are still there, but to a much lighter and more bearable degree than just two days ago. Maybe by this time next week, they will be gone altogether. My need for copious amounts of sleep still remains, however.
Now I need to see if I can a little work done, so that I can finish up today's tasks in time to go to bed before the sun rises.
And here is the cover of my latest Uiñiq:
This is whaling captain Billy Oyagak of Nuiqsut, standing in the middle with members of his crew on Cross Island, balleen from their whale behind them. Other successful captains and crews that fall season of 2010 were Herbert Ipalook, Thomas Napageak and Edward Nukapigak, who hosted me.
That season happened very fast. The crews left Nuiqsut almost at the very end of August and arrived at Cross Island to find the weather perfect and whales passing by in good numbers. I could not come until September 2. Originally, I thought they might possibly have landed a whale or two by then, but that there would still be at least two, maybe three strikes left for me to follow.
As it happened they had landed all four before I even got there. They were still cutting and putting up the whales, and there were polar bears wandering about. I had a good time, took lots of pictures, but still fell far short of what I had hoped to do.
So I want to go back, get in a boat at Nuiqsut and ride out to Cross Island with them. Stay for a month, come back at Naluktak and a few other times, too. I had hoped to go back this year, but irony of ironies, I could not because I was working on getting this Uiñiq done. Nuiqsut/Cross Island was the first story that I laid out and originally I laid it out huge - my first layout filled up almost the entire 120 page magazine. But then, as I worked other storeis in, I had to keep cutting it back and cutting it back and so in the end it wound up at 17 pages.
That still left it as the largest single spread in the magazine, but 17 pages wasn't enough to even begin to do Cross Island-Nuiqsut justice. I couldn't even leave my polar bear shots in, and I had a couple of magnificent polar bear shots and a fun story based on polar bears coming into and passing by camp. Elsewhere in the magazine, I had a double-truck polar bear shot I took on the sea ice off Barrow, and that took up all the space I could afford to give to polar bears in this Uiñiq.
So I hope to go back and somehow find the way to produce either a Uiñiq or a Uiñiq sized or bigger publication wholly on Cross Island and Nuiqsut. In fact, I would like to do that with every village on the Slope - and some off the Slope, too, like Fort Yukon and Arctic Village.
But how do I all this? The decades are flying by. I still think of myself as a young man, fit and strong enough to do anything, but in fact I am on the verge of becoming old - and this bout with shingles that I have just about but not quite won is kind of a telling sign. And this work is not easy to do. It is hard - both in the field and back home, when it becomes necessary to put in 20 hours, 24 hour, 30 hour and even 40 hour days to ever get it done.
I do not wish to listen to this sign the shingles have given me. Yet, if I don't, and just keep living in the manner that I have so far lived, I might just get taken down and not get anymore done at all.
And there was a great deal of material that I gathered from all over that I did not manage to get in at all. I don't why, after all this time, but when I set out to make a 116 page publication (which is what it was budgeted for but I pushed it up to 120 at my own expense) I think that gives me enough space to cover the whole world.
So I shoot this, and I shoot that; I go here, I go there, I interview this person and that person and all the time I am thinking I can work it all in and then when it comes down to it, I can only work a fraction of it in.
That's one of the reason I plan to create on online magazine. I could work it all into an online magazine. I remain at a bit of a loss on how to go about it. I have a colleague who is expert at online publishing and he says he will help me set it up. He's booked solid until January. Once he helps me set the format I want, then how do I fund it?
It ain't cheap to travel around Alaska, you know.
Still, we will see what happens then.
For sure, I need a new airplane. I don't merely want one, I need one. It seems impossible right now, but I know it's not.
Well, I've been rambling, writing more words than most visitors will ever read. Guess I'll stop now.
I've got some things I must do and I had better get at it if I want to get to bed before sunrise.