April 25, 2008: The Fear of Falling Through
Well its been a quiet day on Nunivak, my island in the Bering Sea. Spring is a strange time for the residents of Mekoryuk. Ruby and Duggan, two elementary school boys around town, have had a wonderful time enjoying the meteorological confusion that is break up season here in Alaska. The snow nearly completely melted last week on the island leaving massive deepened puddles of flooding runoff, but in the confusion of the season, the weather has reverted back to the cold grip of winter once again.
With temperatures plummeting and snow falling again, all of said puddles have become tiny opportunities for adolescent adventure. Ruby can be seen egging Duggan on all over town as they tromp around testing out the structural integrity of the ice puddles around the village. A small Indiana Jones climactic drama plays out over and over again. Ruby dares Duggan to test out the ice of doom, Duggan tells him to go first, a punch on the arm and a purple nurple follow until one of the boys tentatively ventures into the puddle. Due to a fairly accurately placed painful ear flick by Duggan, Ruby is forced to attempt the treacherous crossing in shame. As if life itself depends on a successful crossing, Ruby slowly inches across the cracking brown ice, the ultimate goal to reach the other side in safety. This frozen abyss is a particularly deep and nasty puddle and Ruby, with and almost paraperceptual understanding of the physics of ice cracking, senses that catastrophe is soon at hand and decides to make a sprint for the edge. The added sudden instant pressure and movement causes the entire puddle to crumble before him as he dashes for the other side, as if going faster would make the ice crack less quickly. He leaps for the edge and lands in the hard snow and panting and soaked from the waste down.
Ruby gets up and snaps ashamed at his friend, "Duggan, I dare you to cross the pit of doom now you buttface!"
Buttface has a sting to it. Luckily, the consequences of hurting those you love as a small child are usually forgotten by the next frozen puddle.
Duggan obviously wouldn't attempt a suicide mission and takes the complimentary charley-horse without protest. Bygons are left to be bygons.
I myself am watching these action sequences and an epic sunset tonight at 11pm or so out my window. It is 3 deg. F. outside with the windchill, everything has frozen back to solid ice, the new galoshes I bought yesterday are useless and have been shelved in lieu of the Sorel Caribou boots once again. I put my parka back on, winter is back here in Mekoryuk. With that a slight sigh of dismay, dissapointment and sometimes relief is collectively breathed by the kids at the teen game room across from the school house. They pace back and forth smoking cigarettes with a troubled look on their face in front of a game room that is almost maniacally placed directly across from the large barn red aluminum sided school house that taunts them day in and day out.
You see, some of the older students have subconsciously slipped back into their own internal winters at the Nuniwarmiut School. If nature can change its mind back why can't a teen ager? A good student who was once a trouble maker considers and possibly acts on returning to their winter of poor choices. A bad student who was once good, witnesses the see sawing of possibilities of meteorology and un-purposefully decides to leave the dark side once again. Teenagers live in an uncertain world and when the world is crumbling around them or at least having a hard time deciding what it is, a teen's decision to choose an image, personality, character or way of life is crucial. When every thing is changing possibly for the worse, or even more worse, possibly for the better, the fear of the cracking sound of the looming future beneath the feet of a teenager can cause panic and sudden movements and motions and outbursts of butt-faced anger.
And so it went this week at school, choices and decisions and erratic destructive behavior of students like panicked dashes and sprints for the safety and comfort of being their old "Bad" selves. Little did Ruby Icewalker, or the older Darth students know that if they would have remained calm, acted cautiously, and moved slowly they could have possibly made it to the other side dry and warm. The scary uncertainty of a soggy fall to the depths of happiness and success can be horrifying for teenager. To think that the cold, dark, depressing teen world of misguided choices, misunderstanding and unfairness, drama and tragedy might someday give way to a life where they will be responsible for their own happiness and well being is too horrifying to bare. Better make a leap for it I guess. Or, maybe get better at picking which puddles to walk across.
Well that's the news from my Island in the Bering Sea, where the sky gray, the snow is white (again) and the air and life usually have a bite.