When it is -30, and the stars are bright and the baby is in a sling zipped into your parka, the crunch of your snowshoes on the trail sounds like music played on instruments carved out of ice. You might imagine all the mothers in other places who wouldn’t dare leave the house with a baby in this temperature. Smug, you might even think I am a tough mother, one who looks winter in the eye and puts snowshoes on. Don’t let yourself forget: mothers have been doing this forever.
When it’s this cold, I get a taste of what life on a space station must be like. To go outside, I pile into a giant Carhartt parka coat, pull on thick fleece pants. I tie my mukluks and then tie the kids’ mukluks and zip the kids’ coats. And I always put my own mittens on last. It’s the opposite of what they tell you about the airplane oxygen mask. I need my fingers free as long as possible in case I need to unbundle one of the girls, who at the very last minute needs to go to the bathroom.
We live at 64.84, 198 miles south. In winter we see the sun, even if it’s only for a little while each day. At the darkest time, we get three hours and forty-two minutes of light. In the summer we get twenty-one hours and forty-nine minutes. Most of us sleep through the dim midnight twilight, so it feels like a twenty-four hour day.
The story: person sees bear, and perhaps (we may never know), gets too close, moves too quickly, or is simply surprised. Bear sees person, and perhaps (we may never know), responds to the person’s flight with a predator’s instinct or is more aggressive than the usual bear. Whatever happened, both are dead. It’s the first fatal bear mauling in the park’s 95-year history.
I don’t speed past anything any more. I’m barely able to get where I’m going, so I have to be where I am. And I am always with two little people who have never been there before. Their fresh eyes force me to take a second look at everything about this place that I’ve been taking for granted.