For the last couple of days, the temperature up here in Interior Alaska has been close to forty below (which is one of few points of confluence for the centigrade and fahrenheit systems). On the radio this morning, the announcer read out the signs of frostbite and frostnip, and how to warm frozen flesh (not with hot water, apparently). When the temperatures are low like this, going outside is like venturing out on an inhospitable planet: you have to pull on thick clothing, thick boots and mittens, equip yourself with a headlamp unless you’re heading out in the short hours of daylight. One of my colleagues describes Fairbanks as winter settles in as being like a spaceship taking off, the rest of the world falling away as the cold swamps us, and our way of life shifts. Alaska, it seems, lends itself to imagery from the science fiction.
And yet–life goes on. People walk their dogs. People drive their kids to school. People go shopping. Sometimes I see people heading into the supermarket in shorts, as though we’re living in different worlds.