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Ten Lessons My First Winter In Nome Taught Me

Semi-frozen Norton Sound at dusk.

View of Norton Sound from the Nome Library.

1. Snow is LOUD. More specifically, walking on snow is loud. It sounds like giant molars grinding shards of bone.

2. However, if that snow is on the side of the road, sifted into a grainy powder and the color of lightly toasted marshmallow, the decibel level significantly decreases.

3. Temperatures below 10 degrees Fahrenheit to my exposed ears feel like a thousand tiny creatures with jagged steel teeth clamping onto the pale rims of flesh and clenching harder and harder while proportionally growing heavier and heavier until I am almost fit to tears. In my head, these small creatures look like the green daemon minions from 20th Century Fox’s animated film Anastasia. Holla for hats!

4. The thinnest layer of snow can amplify the weakest rays of sunshine and light up the town. The same occurs with moonlight.

5. If you stay really, super busy, like working 12-hour days as a news reporter, then in December when people ask you, “Are you being affected by SAD?” You look at them momentarily confused and then remember, Oh yeah, we’ve only been having four hours of daylight. And you respond, “Honestly, I’ve been too busy to notice.” Which is true, and then you take a Vitamin D supplement.

6. However, you do notice that the sunlight on those days is a perpetual sunrise and sunset in the brightest pinks and most blazing oranges that you’ve ever witnessed.

7. When you can’t run outside— because ice equals death-wish—you meander into the Zumba class at the gym. Then you get addicted. And you go Every Day. And fireworks of health and happiness begin soaring and bursting through your life, and you transform from mere mortal to Goddess With Hips That Don’t Lie.

8. Then you come home and demonstrate your Zumba moves to your housemates and they nod and smile, and you take this as encouragement to perform your favorite sections of choreography Every Day. Your welcome, Housemates.

9. A four-fluid-ounce bottle of face lotion that lasted three months in the lower-48 lasts only one month in arid air Nome. Drink up, skin.

10. The ocean really can still to a giant sheet of ice. And all your trepidation of losing the calming crashing of a liquid sea is replaced with awe at sunlight reflecting off an expanse of quiet.