As I eclipse the solstice, so have I eclipsed two out of many weeks of winter in the Arctic. My life has begun to have some semblance of routine. I now have a home in the form of a Quonset hut.
A Quonset hut, which I’ll now call “The Q” because that’s much snappier, is a building with some probably non-interesting roots of quick-assembled military structures. Basically, I live in a long can of soup that has been sliced in a half.
The most obvious quality of the inside of The Q is that it’s not finished. In true Alaskan form, it’s a work in progress. It in insulated and has doors, but is still very much a skeleton inside. There is no running water, no lights, no sink, no toilet. There is a large hollow “main” room with the all-important focal point, the Blaze King wood-stove. Without it’s heat (and my incessant stoking) I would have turned into a granola-infused popsicle long ago.
Each day I wake in darkness, strap on my headlamp and stoke the fire. I open the back-door which still has no stairs, and take a flying-leap three feet down into the snow into a path I shoveled to a “bathroom” maybe ten meters from the door. Then I take a running jump back up through the door, and revel in the warmth. Then I put more logs in the fire and at that point, there is really nothing left to do except sit in silence and maybe play a guitar in the weak light. There is one lamp I connected to a series of extension cords that snakes to the main lodge.
Before I came to Fairbanks I assumed living in a “dry cabin” was something that many people in the area had experienced, but not most. However, I may be wrong, but I’ve yet to meet anyone who has not lived in a dry cabin for some period of time.
I made a table out of two saw-horses and two boards I found. Sometimes I sit on a stump and write. Sometimes I practice my handstands. Sometimes I read. I have a few hours of daylight each day, and I spend them sweeping the floor for no reason, really, doing more handstands or yoga, or cutting firewood. Then the darkness sets in and I fiddle with the guitar or hang out with Hank, whom I have named only just now.
Who Is Hank?/How Can Hank Remain In The Mortal Plain?
Hank is a fly. I was living in the Q for several days before I heard the unmistakable buzzing of a fly. To my surprise, Hank was buzzing busily around the front door, performing various errands, all of which, to me, looked like flying into a wall over and over. But we’re different people, Hank and I.
Hank comes with a lot of questions, and not a lot of answers. How did he get here? How long had he been here? Given that it was twenty-below-zero outside, how was he surviving? What was he eating?
Once I dragged the lamp out to The Q, of course I began to see a lot more of Hank. I have, a few times, expressed my concern over his seeming unhealthy obsession with the light, but who am I to judge? I’m just as addicted to it in my own way. (To be clear, though, I don’t smash into the lightbulb endlessly like Hank)
Overall, Hank is a great roommate. He is pretty routinely buzzing, which is basically the only sound in The Q, and he seems to be very tidy. He doesn’t stay out late or throw wild parties, though I did find what looked like a TINY piñata laying in the corner of the living room one morning.
And those are more-or-less the conditions of my living quarters. I’ll summarize with a poem:
How Life in The Q
A stump can be a chair.
(If you believe)
The fire and I stare until we think we know the other.
We cannot live without one another.
I pace on sawdust, boards, bits of bark.
Hank tells me the same story all day forever.
Sleep is book-ended by a dark and still so dark and still it feels like more sleep.