April 22nd, 2008: "Spring Mud Love"
It was another quiet day here in Mekoryuk, my island in the Sea. I saw a small arctic song bird perched on a railing outside my window last night. His tiny sweet chirping calls officially announced the arrival of spring in my book. His neighbor the arctic fox has stripped down to his summer fur already and walks the morning dawn with the scraggle and scrap of a gnarly beach bum. Its not the beautiful flower filled fragrant spring of my youth but a clouded, muddy disaster of melting snow and tundra fudge. But the little guys keep chirping along happily and beachtown combing in the 11pm sun, at least the birds and foxes here seem to be optimists.
I've started shoveling the snowbank outside my home onto the path into our arctic entry to try and discourage large quantities of mischievous mud from creeping its way inside, freeloading a ride on the treads of my boots. Time to bust out the old rubber boots again. Nothing instills a sense of the oncoming spring mess in a Nunivak local like the smell of wet rubber in the morning.
April's almost over already, this baffles the locals over at the US Postal Service trailer. They speak of ice break up and early or late seal hunting. April. Always an oddly looking thing. Awkward, stuttering and stopping, unsure of its identity. Am I Winter? Am I Summer? Oh I can't make up my mind. Whoa is me the Spring.
Snow machine enthusiast are out getting their last heart pounding throttle junky rides of the year in, skipping and weaving through the last patches of decaying snow. Like wise, the snow has melted and sprung four-wheelers and trucks from their winter prison sentence and a few of those have been squirting and sliding around town. Their time to shine is only months away and Nunivak locals are out in the fading evening hours tinkering and tooling up their chariots of the tundra.
A Nunivak mud puddle is a marvelous thing. Half mud, one quarter puddle, and twenty-five percent tundra flavored slush puppy. Upon walking across a seemingly innocent mud patch an unsuspecting person could suddenly find themselves shin deep in a pool of frozen earthen Slurpee delight.
The kids in The Nuniwarmiut School have crawled to a standstill. The overwhelming burden of extra light and looming summer fun have occupied such major percentages of their brain space that several of the more rambunctious students have even conceded to a simple mulling about in mindless contemplation of freedom.
Spring is a time of change, and students know change better than most, although they deal with it as poorly as the rest of us. Every year around this time they have to say goodbye to another chapter of their lives. As adults it all seems to mesh together. But as students we had clear markers of our time on earth. 4th grade. 7th Grade. Sophomore. Senior. Every year a new title. A new position. A new challenge. A new song. A new fad. A new slang word. A new love.
The young spring love is a powerful thing. Spring is an important time for love. The rest of the animal kingdom is preparing to breed and young Nunivak teens are positioning and promenading for their summer romances. There is a sense of desperation in the air as the final month of the year comes to a close. One last chance to impress that potential summer love before the final bell sounds for the year.
Of course in the Nuniwarmiut School there are no bells, only the final slamming metal doors of another year spent trying to survive an encounter with the dangerous educators of American bullshit.
The locals are talking about it too. The amount of conversation at the Nima Corporation town General Store usually revolves around fish camp, berry picking, boat engine repair, bird hunting and halibut fishing. These activities hold meaning, this is where the Nunivak residents shine. Their natural habitat is the cool outdoor air of the sea. Their natural mindset is the earnest effort of survival and hard work doing worthwhile tasks. We should all be so lucky.
Thats the news from Nunivak Island, my village in the Bering Sea, where the snow is gray, the sky is white and the day is slowly winning over the night.