Spring is here.
I had just sat down to obsess over my future on Monday night when my friend texted me, “Wanna go egging?” (for those of you in the Lower 48, “egging” does not mean throwing eggs at someone’s house – it’s going to responsibly collect eggs as part of the subsistence lifestyle. Alaska is much more sophisticated than the rest of the country in some regards). I looked at the blank Word Document and closed my laptop; ten minutes later, we were roaring down the beach in her side-by-side scouting for pairs of arctic terns in the sand. As we drove, my friend pointed out different bird species and named them for me in Inupiaq – she told me that the local names are based mostly on the sound of the birdcalls. Her daughter snoozed between us as the sun threatened to set in the North. We didn’t find any eggs, but that seemed almost secondary to just spending time in good company out in the country.
Summer in Nome is different. You wouldn’t be able to tell from the weather – it’s been thirty degrees and raining since mid-March – but there is definitely a new energy in the air. Another friend, as we waded through a stream on our way to Dorothy Falls on Sunday night, summed it up perfectly when she said, “I feel like I would have wasted today if I didn’t get out and do something.” And “today” covers a long stretch of time now: the sun never really sets, which means that your hour-long hike can turn into four or five hours if you aren’t paying attention. The wildlife gives you no clues either – the migratory birds are just as active at eleven at night as they are at eleven in the morning.
It’s not difficult to see that spring and early summer is a time of change in Western Alaska. The animals are back, there is green poking through the tundra, and there are more people out and about, including the volunteers. But another, more personal change is coming our way: next week, we’ll welcome the first 2014-2015 KNOM volunteer, Jenn, into our home. We’ve spent a year adjusting to each other’s habits and setting routines geared toward efficiency, and now we’ll have to reimagine our living situation. As the season changes, we’ll have to change as well. Our year at KNOM is drawing to a close, but there are still a few more adventures to be had before we sign off.