Break Up!

The river broke on Friday afternoon at 1:18 pm.

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Of the break-ups I’ve seen, I’d say this was one of the quieter ones: the water level was low, and the blocks of ice relatively small and thin. Other years have involved the risk of flooding and chunks of ice the size of cars.

It does just feel really, really good to see the river flowing again. Winter up here is so long and so dark, and break-up is the fulfillment of the promise that winter doesn’t last forever.

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Down By the River

Last night, I was sitting on the couch bathed in the blue glow of my laptop screen and lit from above by a yellow lamp. Around 10 pm, I looked out the window and the evening light called to me.

Light has been returning to the north since December 22nd, of course, and the dramatic shift in daylight hours we experience over the course of the year here is always compelling and beautiful. Spring light is particularly beguiling as it is accompanied by the excitement of the Yukon River breaking up.

Here are some photographs from my evening walk along the river, taken between approximately 10 pm and 11 pm.1 2 3 4

The tripod out on the ice in the last two photographs is the official ‘ice is out!’ marker. There is a rope connecting the tripod to a clock on shore, and a local group sells tickets and people guess when the ice goes out. It’s quite a town event: the siren at the firehall rings and everyone in town heads down to the river to watch the icebergs floating past. I have heard that rivers upstream from town have broken, and the anticipation is that the tripod will go soon.

Related: I do really like the cute visualization of daylight hours found on the town’s website.

Finished Object: Narragansett Sweater

This finished object, the Narragansett sweater, isn’t a “ta-da!” so much as a “ta-hmmmm…”

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This really is the kind of sweater I love to wear (and the kind of project I like to knit): it’s relatively plain and straight-forward, but with a really attractive detail to keep things from being too boring.

I do, however, have a little bit of a fit issue. The neckline is wide wide wide, so it just doesn’t stay up on my shoulders. I also find the yoke (neckline to under the arms) a little too long. This will be a relatively straightforward fix–just cut into the yoke, pick up the live stitches and re-knit the top band of twisted rib, with a few decreases worked in there to tighten things up. Not a big deal to do, but something I am not in the mood for right now. This sweater’s going into the closet, rather than back into the pile of unfinished projects.

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And I did, by the way, fix the incorrect ribbing at the bottom. Of course I fixed the incorrect ribbing at the bottom!

Two Good Author Bios

Eric Newby sounds like he would have been a delightful man to have a beer with.

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This is his author bio from the 1978 Weidenfeld and Nicolson edition of The Big Red Train Ride. I heartily approve of this bio: there’s Nazis; there’s romance; there’s exotic travel; there’s the word tottering. Tottering! At one point in the book, Newby describes his location in Berlin as being “not much more than a biscuit’s toss from the Iron Curtain” and I’d really like to know just how far this guy could toss a biscuit.

The Big Red Train Ride is a worth-while read. It describes a trip across the USSR on the Trans-Siberian Railway, which Newby took in 1977 with his wife, Wendy, and a German photographer named Otto–all accompanied by a ‘guide’ from “The Agency.” It’s a nice blend of history, information about the railway, with a good dash of Englishman-in-the-USSR hijinks, and just the right amount of grumbling about the travel conditions. Although I could do without such detailed descriptions of the physiques of the various conductresses along the line–particularly in light of the fact that Wendy seems like an awesome dame who totally would help you bust out of a POW camp.

A few years ago, when I was in more of a nomadic stage of life, I really wanted to travel across Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway. I did quite a bit of reading and research about Russian culture and history, including some works about the railway specifically, and some fiction as well. The Sochi Olympics this winter and all the accompanying talk about Russia brought up my old travel dream. I didn’t pay too much attention to the olympics, but I did pay attention to stories about gay rights issues, and other social problems in Russia. This Jeff Sharlet piece via Annotation Tuesday was particularly devastating. After reading it, the last lingering bits of my desire to travel to Russia died. Why would I want to travel to (and spend my tourist dollars in) a country that treats people so horribly? I was about nine years old when the Iron Curtain fell, and so to me, the Soviet Union’s history of oppression and human rights abuses was a thing of the past. It was easy to think that the past was the past, and that things were somehow “better now.” But clearly they’re not, and this is something that I didn’t really see until discussions of Russia’s current social climate.

Reading The Big Red Train Ride was my way of saying goodbye to my old travel dream. It had been on my to-read list since my original round of Russian research four years ago. It was the right sort of farewell: generally light but with the occasional somber reflection on the often difficult lives of Russian people. The book didn’t reignite my desire to visit Russia, but it did make me want to read more Eric Newby.

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Bio #2: Elaine Dundy, in a 2007 reprint of her 1966 novel The Old Man and Me.

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Part of me wants to say ‘cool it with the name drops, sister’–except that her bio makes her sound irresistibly like one of the plucky and rather picaresque heroines of her novels. I have only just started The Old Man and Me, but have read The Dud Avocado a couple of times now, so I  feel confident that an amusing tale of nightclubs, rogue-ish artist types and shenanigans lies ahead of me. For the past year or so, I have been really into mid-twentieth century books written by women that talk about what I like to think of as ‘women making decisions about love and life.’ It sort of horrifies and fascinates me that the questions we’re asking today–think Lean In, think endless can-women-have-it-all conversations–are the same questions that women have been asking for decades now. While Elaine Dundy is rather on the lighter side of these questions, her work does fit into my current generally preference for books written by women that speak to my experiences as a woman. Although–unlike the narrator of The Old Man and Me, I’ve never plotted to murder an English tycoon.

Snacks I Consumed…

…while reading the inaugural issue of Snacks Quarterly:

Snask Beth is great. Also, the illustration by Matthew Hollister would make a great snack-themed quilt. You could hand quilt with pearl cotton to make the holes on the graham cracker.

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And as for that cookie flavoured hot chocolate: definitely super sweet, and definitely tastes like the cookie in a way that is definitely weird.