Little Things About Living Here

Lying in bed in the Jamesway with the lights off and the window covered; the air is so dry that slight movements cause static electric shocks so intense you can see, hear and feel them, like tiny blue fireworks. If I touch the plug of the Christmas lights with my foot or the blanket and cause a shock, it causes them to flicker on momentarily.

Working in the VMF, a trackloader will groan to a start, leaving behind oily black icicle stalagmites.

At night, you can hear the wind whip the canvas walls of our Jamesway tent, the plywood structures inside shifting, clapping. Both sides of the pillow are cold sides. During the storm (the biggest since 1990), we came back to our room after dawdling due to the weather one night to discover half an inch of snow on the bed that had come in through the gaps between the canvas. We worked for half an hour plugging up the holes with towels and issue socks, each bit of insulation causing a gap somewhere else.

When dull white clouds cover the sun, it flattens out the shadows making it nearly impossible to see the texture of the ground directly in front of you. This makes it difficult to walk, and coming to or from station we stumble and trip like a bunch of drunks.

The terrain is constantly evolving. The heavy equipment operators work day and night shifts to clear snow away from the buildings, and later to the “end of the world,” downwind from the station, Summer Camp and storage berms so it won’t blow back. Mountains of snow will appear and disappear, grow and shrink, making it difficult to know exactly where I was before I got to know the area well.

You can hear tractors roaring all night long, grumbling up and beeping back down the hills, moving snow. When a plane lands late, you can hear it as though it is landing right in Summer Camp. You can also hear everyone else in the Jamesway; coughs, sneezes, low battery radio beeps, alarm clocks, or when someone is putting their pants on.

When “freshies” come in, fruit, vegetables, and real eggs, Comms will make an all-station announcement asking for help. People line up from the bottom of the Destination Zulu stairs, up two flights to the galley on the second floor. Passing boxes up the steps, oohing and squealing at the contents. “Mango!” “Pineapple!” “PLUMS!”

3 thoughts on “Little Things About Living Here

  1. Nice. It’s so nice to hear all the little things articulated. Of course the cold is an obvious thing to mention, the dryness, the elevation, the isolation, the work itself, the hours, and the people. It’s nice to be reminded of drunk-like stumbling outside across the shadowless terrain. Other thing that now comes to mind: Nate telling me about his excitement to discover a large mouth mayonnaise jar with a lid to pee in! I love your writing, Kiell. More more more!

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