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  • Janette Kerr Land of Ice

More snow - less washing

Blog post 2

Thursday April 7th 2022

It’s -6°C this morning when I get up and head over to the other house for some porridge. It snowed pretty much all day yesterday and has continued today on and off. The tracks, which were beginning to look a tad mucky, have been brightened by a fresh snow coating, although this also means I can’t follow the tracks where others have walked or ridden snow mobile and impacted the snow so I blunder into deep snow even more. Have definitely given up on washing, apart from a quick splash on my face. There doesn't seem the need to waste water on my body! This morning I make granola, which delays me going out, but makes the house smell good.

Heavy mist hangs over the surrounding hills; I can tell when the snow is coming in as the sky goes dark and smudgy over the sea.

The bay is full of even more ice – huge floating slabs slowly moving; it changes every time I look. No chance of any boats going in or out. The only way now is either by dog sled or snow mobile.

Yesterday I walked up through the snow onto the hill behind the house following the marker stones to the top. There are a lot of old round stones up here, smoothed by the action of ice maybe; I'm not sure how old they are, but they are different to the usual dark granite rocks that I climb on.

Then I sat on a bench and attempted, unsuccessfully, to draw. Still can’t get to grips with this monochromatic landscape; I’m getting too caught up in all the detail and trying too hard to make something representational, which is not really what I do. I remind myself that it takes time to get to ‘see’ a landscape and I must try to stop panicking, about my time; maybe it’s enough just to look and feel at the moment.

This morning I walk to the fish factory side of the village to photograph the mist moving over the hills, then cross to the other bay, pausing to see how the igloo-making artist Roswitha, is getting on. Making my way down to the sea, I skirt round the chained dogs who look at me with some interest.. does she bring us food? Floundering in and out of deep bits of blown up snow, I climb up the rocks to the green bench. I realise I’ve put on too many clothes, which is fine when I’m just sitting about, but not when I start walking and climbing.

Hundreds of birds are on the water between the chunks of ice and more fly in as I watch - mainly Eider ducks (or aavooq) and a few gulls. It’s peaceful up here right now; no dogs barking, no sounds from snow mobiles, just the calling of the birds and sound from a small slow swell moving flat chunks of ice below me is almost as if it’s sighing.

Back at the house we need more water; due to the permafrost there are no pipes to houses, so this requires regular trips to the village pump house to fill the plastic containers. Forgot to take a photo of me using the sled to pull them over the snow to the house….. there will be a next time. All the houses here have to collect water from here in the winter months. For water, we use ice from icebergs, which passes through the desalination plant before it gets to the pump house. So we are drinking several thousand years old water.

In the afternoon I take my sketchbook and climb up to sit on the helicopter pad and try to draw those hills again. I really am making a pigs-ear of it at the moment. Eventually I just make several rapid sketches that I can maybe work on later. I’m also distracted by the frantic barking of dogs below me. I start to worry that maybe they can sense a polar bear that I can’t see, and anxiously look over my shoulder just in case there’s one sneaking up.

Looking across the white frozen bay-side this evening, there’s two snow mobiles careering across the surface, and earlier there were some very excited dogs – I missed the sled go out, but just caught it returning! (Apologies for the poor quality image – taken from the window).

It’s gone midnight; the temperature is now -7°C. I’m tired, and I have to go back to the other house to sleep.. maybe I will have a polar bear encounter on the way.

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