January 18, 2009

We’re having an unusually cold winter in northeast Indiana this year. Just before Christmas, we had an ice-storm that left about 80,000 homes without power for 4 or 5 days, and now we’re having sub-zero temperatures, so everyone is scrambling to keep pipes from freezing, or to thaw them out once they have frozen.

It makes me remember my years in Alaska, when this kind of weather was the norm for five or six months each winter. In Fairbanks, the schools had indoor recess if the temperature was colder than 20 below zero, but when it was warmer than that, everyone just bundled up in snow-suits and Sorel boots and fur hats and went outside to play.

In Telida, the small community where I lived and taught school for three years, we didn’t worry about freezing pipes because we didn’t have running water in our homes. We didn’t have electricity, so power outages were not a problem. But we did have to be sure to keep a good woodpile, a mix of spruce to get a fire going, and birch to keep it burning hot. When the temperature was 40-60 below, I’d get up several times each night to stoke the fire, and still my water bucket would be frozen in the morning.

I’m a little nostalgic for the coziness of those winter nights, the northern lights sweeping the sky, moose tracks in the deep snow, and everyone helping each other get through the winter.