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Koviashuvik, A Time and Place of Joy in the Present

goatKoviashuvik is an Inuit word meaning,”living in the present moment with quiet joy and happiness.”  The word perfectly describes my state of mind when I look out my window only to find a moose or a fox standing in my front yard.  This is life in Alaska.  This is how one survives the winters here: by finding your own koviashuvik.

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When we first told our friends in Georgia and southern Alabama that we were moving to Alaska, they all asked us how we would ever survive the winter.  We asked ourselves the very same thing, to be honest.  How does one survive (much less thrive) for months with very little sunlight in temperatures as low as -70°F?

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My Aunt Judy moved from rural Virginia to Talkeetna, Alaska before I was born.  She’s spent the last thirty-plus years in this amazing place whose seasons force its residents (human and nonhuman alike) into a sort of manic-depressive cycle.  As the sunlight hours begin to dwindle and the temperature drops, she would catch up on her reading lists & knitting projects.  The winters were for planning her garden, writing short stories, and painting.  The focus shifts inward.

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After breakup, the rivers begin to flow and the Alaskan residents come to life.  The focus shifts outward.  There is a collective feverish attitude of not wishing to squander a single second of sunlight indoors.  There is a current of excitement and were it a film, the background music would be just about anything by Corinne Bailey Rae.  My aunt would write me letters describing her readiness to cast off the winter (having moved from tranquility to restlessness) and move all of those seedlings outside to begin soaking up the sunlight of the lengthening days.  By summer, Judy found herself reluctant to sleep because she knew the sun was shining.  Compelled to make the most of every sunlit-hour, the residents take to the trails with packs, set sail on the glacier-fed salmon-filled waters, and spend hours tending their garden patches with rows of giant cabbages.

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We arrived in Alaska just at the tail-end of an abbreviated fall.  All around us, people were preparing for winter with final moose-hunting expeditions, storing the last vegetable harvest, obtaining & stacking firewood, and spending their dividend checks on supplies to last the coming winter.  Josh and I were right there with them (minus the dividend checks, of course), buying insulated pants, thermal underwear, layering systems, boots, and sock systems.  Everything is a “system” here.  Sock system.  Coat system.  Liner, glove, and mitten system.  You get the idea.

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Then, it snowed.  And snowed.  And snowed.  The world around us became so still and lovely — a reverse-snowglobe effect — which is incredibly calming.  Tranquility becomes contagious.  As the temperatures dropped, our friendly neighbors vanished into their cabins with wisps of fragrant woodsmoke serving as the only proof of their existence, mushers could be seen on roadside trail practicing for upcoming dogsled trials, and then the Chena River froze over becoming a highway for snowmachines and cross-country skiers like a modern winter Currier & Ives lithograph come to life.

Now, we embrace the calm and quiet joy.  We begin to plan for Josh’s after-military life which will be upon us in a few years and, perhaps most importantly, we embrace the Alaskan koviashuvik in the comfort of our cozy dry cabin with our handsome bright-eyed son.  We point to the ravens, fox, and moose right outside of our ice-framed windows and delight in his excitement.  As his breath fogs the glass, we draw hearts and smile out into the snowy frozen birch forest before us.

 

  • Kathy - Wow, you *almost* made me think that I too could survive in Alaska! 🙂

    Great pictures of that fox!ReplyCancel

    • Simple Livin' gal - Kathy, thank you! I think you would enjoy it here for a few years. Ultimately, you and I have our hearts firmly planted in rolling verdant hills dotted with cattle and sheep on the 38th parallel (North or South). Which means, you may just be forced to visit me when we move to New Zealand. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Kristine - Wonderful post!ReplyCancel

    • Simple Livin' gal - Bless you, Kristine! I’m so glad to be writing again and sharing Alaska with my friends. What an experience!ReplyCancel

  • Michele - Lovely thoughts and if anyone can handle the winter in Alaska it will be you. I still don’t think I could handle it. I have enough trouble with Seattle. It is the gray that gets me.ReplyCancel

    • Simple Livin' gal - Michele, I struggled with Seattle, too. The snow helps brighten things here. When I lived in the Northwest, it only snowed once. The misty gray damp days were really hard on me back then. My first winter there, it rained for 47 consecutive days. There is no amount of vitamin D to combat that sort of depression!ReplyCancel

  • Holly - I love it when you wax poetic in describing places, Lacy. Alaska is such a wild place, and yet, you’ve brought out its incredible beauty with the words you’ve chosen. I would never be able to live there, but reading your perspectives and experiences of it makes it seem much less inhospitable to me, and I thank you for that.ReplyCancel

    • Simple Livin' gal - Holly, I am so glad that you enjoy these posts. Sometimes I fear that I will be known as “that blogger that can’t find a period.” 😉 Alaska is surprising me, too! I’m quite enchanted by my pre-Aslan Narnia. You would certainly love the summers here. That I promise!ReplyCancel

  • Rosa - You are so lucky! I wish I could see that from my window. What a delightful spectacle. I love foxes.

    Cheers,

    RosaReplyCancel

  • Holly - LOL Lacy. I don’t think you’ll ever be known as the “blogger who can’t find a period.” 😀 Rather, I think you’ll be known as “the blogger who finds adventure in the most amazing places.” 🙂 As for the summers, I have heard they’re pretty spectacular. Maybe some day I’ll be able to experience one first-hand… 🙂ReplyCancel

    • Simple Livin' gal - Wow! I would love to be known as “the blogger who finds adventure in the most amazing places” — what a terrific thought! Holly, you are terrific! You are always welcome here. I have a spare room!ReplyCancel

  • Marlene - I am sure Alaska is a great place to live. It is beautiful spring, summer, fall and winter. You will have a great time there. Your son is probably wanting to go out but in shock at the cold. Daddy will get him going though and od course mom will be making some fantastic new dishes to. What a blessing that Alaska is going to have with you there. With the Xmas season coming closer may you, your husband and your beautiful son have a wonderful holiday season. Miss you terribly.
    Love alwaysReplyCancel

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