Monday, November 05, 2007

Creeping Toward Winter

Most years, there is a skin of ice over the Kuskokwim River by Halloween, so that it appears to have stopped flowing. But this year we have had a warm and rainy autumn; though ice is building up in the river, it is still flowing strongly and people are carefully traveling by boat to and from the closer villages.

The river’s freezing process begins at the banks and works towards the center. That fact makes it tricky to travel by boat in the last few weeks before the river becomes solid. While the center of the river may be clear open water, tying up at the river’s edge for even a brief period means your boat may get frozen in. And once that happens, you’ll not be moving it until break up next May. But people take risks because they need to get around, for grocery shopping, hospital appointments, family commitments; and flying is expensive. As long as there are open leads in the river, people try to travel by boat. We are still four to six weeks away from safe travel by snowmachine.

Dutch says that his sources tell him this was the warmest and wettest September since records of Bethel weather started being kept some eighty years ago. I was fortunate enough to miss much of it, traveling out of state; on my return I could see the strain in people’s faces from seemingly endless rain and the ankle-deep mud that goes with it.

October improved a little on the rain scale and the land dried out some. The thermometer dropped below freezing for a couple of weeks and we had some nice snow. It actually looked like winter was starting, and not a minute too soon for most of us. Once summer is over, we don’t like to linger in the in-between. Life around here is much cleaner after the mud is gone.

Then we caught the tail end of a warm and rainy typhoon-generated front that set us back a few weeks on the road to winter. The snow and ice melted and we were back to mud. Sigh.

For the last week we have hovered at freezing, with sometimes heavy wet snow alternating with rain which melts it away. Wet roads in the daytime freeze overnight, making treacherous black ice in the early mornings. Patience is wearing thin with this slow transition to freeze up.

Halloween was a challenge for the trick-or-treaters this year. The roads were wet and muddy and there were intermittent bursts of heavy snowfall. Dutch and I have a long driveway, as our house is set back from the road; only the most dedicated trick-or-treaters are willing to make the trek. Maybe two or three dozen at most.

Trick-or-treating is a bit different in Bethel from other places I’ve lived. It is not just a children’s activity. Lots of teenagers are out pounding the streets and ringing doorbells for free candy. Costumes are not considered a requirement. Just wearing a mask is considered an adequate effort; it IS a challenge to find a costume that fits over a winter parka and knee boots. But many kids don’t even bother with a mask. They just go around collecting candy wearing their regular clothes.

This year I decided to give extra candy to those with costumes and painted faces, took their photos and asked them to explain their costumes to me. One boy was quite incensed that his friends got more candy than he did because they had costumes and he did not.

“You get one piece just for showing up; if you wear a costume or give me a rousing “TRICK OR TREAT!” you get two pieces,” I told him. “If you are not wearing a costume, what are you doing to earn the candy?” I asked. “Do you have a trick?” The teenager looked at me like I was crazy. I just shrugged and told him to go find his mask, which he claimed to have left in his truck.

When we were talking about it the next morning, my friend Joan’s comment was “there is something inherently wrong about trick-or-treaters who can drive themselves around!” I had to agree. It was the under-12 set who were having the most fun; the teens were all about cleaning up.


Happy November. May the cold come soon.

Photos by The Tundra PA



Anonymous catnapping said...

great photos! i think my favorite is the last one with the empty johnny boat "beached."

i love the colours of winter. i love the cold of winter. i envy you living there.

cat (in missoula - the banana belt of montana.)

Thursday, November 08, 2007 1:56:00 PM  
Blogger LoDaRoMa said...

Bethel is beautiful!

Friday, November 09, 2007 10:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am very happy about running across your Blog while just doing a random search under costumes blogspot. Amazing!
Very Good Work.
Your Friend, Shawn

Friday, November 16, 2007 6:19:00 PM  

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