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Training for Marathon Winters

At the Top of the World (or at least Anvil Mountain)

I talk to my parents every week, which is way more often than I did in college. When I was in school, my parents basically knew where I was and what I was doing, because they too went to university in the Midwest for their liberal arts educations and were gloriously open-minded about college activities. Since I’ve moved to Nome, though, there has been a need to talk more because my parents and I no longer connect via shared experience. I think that these talks sometimes leave my parents disappointed. It’s kind of difficult to describe what I do at work on a daily basis without getting boringly technical (really exciting stuff for me, probably not super exciting to whoever is on the other end of that conversation), and there are honestly some weeks where nothing spectacular outside of work happens.

And then there are weekends like this.

Friday night: Nome Arts Council Open Mic. I signed off my DJ shift and headed to the elementary school with my housemates to watch over 15 people from Nome give musical, comedic, dramatic, or spoken word performances. I’d seen some of the performers before, but some were new and incredibly talented. From excellent guitar playing to a captivating rendition of “The Cremation of Sam McGee”, Nome is an artistic enclave. The audience celebrated every performer; this was a community event at its finest.

Saturday: Community discussion on historical trauma facilitated by Jim LaBelle. Tara, Daynee, Anna Rose, and I woke up early and joined about thirty people at the elementary school for an all-day program that included lectures, discussion, a film, and working groups. This was an opportunity for a frank and open discussion about how colonialism has affected local indigenous peoples. It was an educational, humbling, and emotional experience that left everyone exhausted at the end of the day and definitely ready for the potluck dinner.

Sunday: Sledding! Time to “relax.” Tara and I piled snow pants and parkas over several layers of clothing, grabbed a purple plastic sled that we found in the garage, and hopped on the back of an ATV for a ride up Anvil Mountain.  Sledding in Western Alaska is WAY more intense than it is in the Park District of Chicago: we caught a lot of air and got a lot of bruises even through the fluffy snow. We were sweating through our layers by the end of the afternoon, but the long walk back up the mountain was totally worth the thrilling ride down. The sun hovered over the Bering Sea in the background while we sledded, turning the ocean a gradient of blue and orange.

As the sun comes out less and less often, there are a lot of days when I just want to turn my alarm clock off and hibernate. Fortunately, people in Nome have lived here long enough to know how to cope with the darkness: celebrate the opportunities that winter presents. This is a time for art, meetings, and winter sports. Winter is too long to hibernate here. Now that the muddy season is over, it’s time to get moving. I’ve never been good at endurance sports, but I’m glad to have so many great coaches around for the marathon that is winter in Western Alaska.