On the subject of sunshine, everyone should know that it’s daylight here twenty and more hours a day now, and twilight the rest of the time. I love hearing the birds singing all night. I went out to pee at two this morning and I could hear the river churning like a slushie machine down at first bend. Spring is here!
Taking the sno-go in for storage, rocking some scandalously bare knees
In other sunshine-related news, I was nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award – “an award given to bloggers by their peers for being creative, positive, and inspiring, while spreading sunshine to the blogging community.”
Thank you Julia for nominating me! I’m honored that you thought of me and also super delighted by your questions.
If you don’t already read Beneath the Borealis, you should. Julia writes an account of her life in a very different part of rural Alaska. She is perceptive, enthusiastic and vulnerable in her writing, and I love each and every one of her posts. She has just added a tiny fluff to her family, so one can assume there will be many enchanting snow-puppy stories coming soon.
Here are the questions posed to me by Julia:
Why did you begin your blog?
I began Chasing Piggens years ago, when I was living in Arkansas.
Partly, I started the blog because the life I shared at that time with my partner Sean was wildly different from the lives of everyone we knew. It was a way of sharing what we were up to, and why.
Partly, too, I was reading a lot of blogs at the time, learning about how folks had tackled projects or approached changes similar to mine. I thought I might have some useful advice for someone wanting to raise chickens in varmint hell or butcher their own pigs with the help of a decrepit swingset. Then I started reading Alaska blogs…
What is the first thing you thought of when you woke up this morning?
“Oh shit, I’m late!”
Geoff woke me up at five thirty this morning, convinced we were late for work because the sun was so high in the sky.
The best part? Friday was the last day of school! We get to sleep in – or out, preferably – and on any schedule we please – for the next three months!
We shot off rockets with the kids on Friday afternoon to celebrate.
How do you soothe yourself when you’re having a bad day?
I reread a Tamora Pierce book. Tortall is my favorite place to go when the real world is too tough to face.
Hogwarts is a close second, especially on audio as read by the fabulous Jim Dale.
What is your ultimate favorite meal or food item?
STUFFING! I love stuffing! I will go to extreme lengths (trust me – I live in the bush and it’s not easy to come by fresh parsley) to put honest-to-goodness homemade-from-scratch stuffing on the table at Thanksgiving.
If you could only recommend one place to go in the world to everyone you met, where would it be?
I would recommend the arctic. And I would advise everyone to stay for a while.
The arctic is beautiful and vibrant in ways that I couldn’t have imagined when I lived in the lower-48. There are places here, river valleys and hilltop lookouts, that are so beautiful and primeval that they crack your heart wide open and compel you to drop everything and revel. You can’t help feeling small and afraid while at the same time feeling that you are at the height of your powers somehow: Impossibly human with a real understanding of what that means. If you hang around long enough, the landscape itself will transform you.
What is your favorite pair of shoes?
I love my Bean boots. They’re great all-purpose rugged footwear, and I kinda like that they mark me as a New Englander in a world of Alaskans in XtraTufs.
Shoulder-season footwear with teacher-style ornamentation
Do you feel like an adult?
Yes, but I really hope that will go away when I stop being responsible for children all the time.
Lately, as I’ve been researching and scheming for Project LandYurtPlanDirt, I’ve felt ridiculously grown up. I have done heaps of paperwork, and I had to order checks for the first time in my life (who uses checks?! [adults, apparently]). I’m looking forward to the part where I’ve spent all my money and I get to go bash down trees and cut firewood and move into my sweet-ass yurt on a tall deck in among the trees beside the reindeer pasture. I’ll pull in my rope ladder (figurative or not? you decide!), put up a sign that says “no boys allowed” and forget all about paperwork for a good long while.
What makes you feel alive?
River trips, winning at anything, kissing, playing dog football or skijoring with Daazhraii, carefully planning and then spectacularly executing any scheme, singing in the car, fixing things by myself, being trusted.
What is your favorite cocktail or beverage?
I don’t have a favorite! Beverages are conditional. I do have a thing for pink, though. On a slow morning, grapefruit juice. Any time at all, a dash of real-deal cranberry juice in my water. In winter, I like a pink cocktail out on the town.
Do you like where you live?
Yes. It’s also very complicated. Arctic Village is both spectacular and harsh in almost every imaginable way.
Chasing rockets through Arctic Village in rubber-boots
What do you need to do for yourself to feel good?
SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY! Basic Self-Care vs. Work, Chores and Adventures!
In my life, the latter tends to totally dominate. My work makes me feel like I’m contributing something useful to the world, chores make me feel like I’m holding up my end of my relationship, and adventures make me feel like a badass. Eating well, sleeping enough, and getting any kind of exercise tend to fall by the wayside because those things benefit only me and don’t really impress anyone.
I’ve been a lot better about it this school year – I realize that I need to take care of myself if I want to get the most out of my body and mind – emotional resilience, physical wellness, and mental agility all depend on self-care and are all essential to succeeding as a teacher – but it can be really hard to prioritize myself. If I could push hard twenty-four hours a day, there would still be more to do: Lessons to plan, wood to chop, classes to teach, dishes to wash, papers to grade, game nights to run (I am now the Dungeon Master for some of our middle school boys who just got into D&D), events to plan, reports to draft, staff parties to host and on and on.
This year, Jewels and I worked out after school together. At this point, we can both recite Jillian Michaels’ “Yoga Inferno” dvd nearly perfectly (our favorite line: “there are days you’d rather be dead than turn on this dvd!”). It is exhausting, but working out erases my headaches and makes me feel like a million bucks. That changed the school year in a huge way for me. Thank you Jewels, for always being game to roll out the yoga mats. You saved my bacon this year.
I would like to nominate some of my favorite, still-active, Alaskan Teacher-Bloggers for this award, and I’ve tailored my questions accordingly. With no internet at home, I’m terrible about keeping up with who’s new out there, so if you know of any good bush-teacher blogs I should follow, please comment.
- Aletha over at Tumbleweed Soul is very active and always has something cheerful or funny to say.
- Leslie at Occupational Therapy Below Zero works in Arctic Village with me, as well as in other parts of Alaska with other schools, and takes beautiful photos.
- Andrew and Kristina at Bellamy Travels are new to Alaska this past year. They work in Hughes and I just found their blog a few weeks ago when they posted an awesome synopsis of their year.
Here are the rules, if you wish to play:
- Thank the blogger who nominated you.
- Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
- Nominate up to 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
- List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award in your post/or on your blog
- Why Alaska?
- How does your experience compare to your expectations?
- Imagine a bucket. What’s it used for?
- If you could design your ideal care package, what would be in it?
- What is one thing you buy just about every single time you go to the grocery store?
- Do you have a favorite joke? What is it?
- What is something you can make, food or otherwise, that you are proud of?
- What is one thing you are looking forward to right now?
- When you need to laugh, what is your go-to book, podcast, tv show or whatever?
- What is your favorite extravagance?
- What is something that you miss already about winter?