The weather has sat stagnant for more than a week. The bomb cyclone went unnoticed. On a few nights the wind whistled, that was all. Thoughts of fresh snow passed through, but never materialized. I taught a class to young children in Seattle, about the wonders of Alaska’s weather. As they considered ice in the ocean and slowly creeping glaciers, their tiny faces blurred on my computer screen, each in their own zoom square. One boy, about six years old, grabbed his screen and pointed it outside the window of his house. We’re living in Montana right now, because of the virus, and there’s snow here, just like in Alaska. Yes, I said. Yes, it is. Despite this boy’s obvious privilege, and his mother’s invisible voice in the background, something burned in my chest: a sadness for the distance between us and the confusion he must feel. Snowmen won’t replace his classmates, that is clear.
Outside, while my car warms up, I watch the waxwings clean the bird cherry tree. Hundreds of them flip their bright yellow tails in the aspens nearby, waiting their turn to eat. The armed insurrection in South Anchorage isn’t scheduled until this weekend, but I take the long way to Muldoon to avoid the road closures from the mid-town bomb threat. There, in the parking lot of a vacant building that once housed a wholesale grocery chain, I help direct traffic for the Food Bank. Hundreds of cars sit idling, waiting for the doors to open. When they do, red brake lights blink and inch forward. Slowly, the pallets are emptied. I wonder if we’ll run out of boxes before the last car. At the end we’re left with a small mountain of butter; but as much as I love its rich, emulsive cream, without bread and rent, it’s not enough.
Jessica Cherry, PhD, is a scientist, writer, and commercial airplane pilot living in Anchorage and Fairbanks.