Wednesday, December 05, 2007

This frozen world

Date: Dec. 4
Mileage: 32.6
Hours: 2:45
December mileage: 78.2
Temperature upon departure: 7

"It hurts, it literally hurts me, to go outside," one of my co-workers announced. Journalists are known for hyperbole, but I couldn't help voicing my skepticism. "It's not really that cold," I said. "I mean, when it's 5 degrees in Fairbanks, little kids go out to recess in their T-shirts" (As I said, journalists are known for their hyperbole.)

"Well, it's cold here in Juneau," he said. "Sure," I relpied. " I guess." And with that, I nestled further into my down vest and knit gloves that I was wearing to type at my computer, because, contrary to the "winter junkie" image I try to project, I am one of those employees who is always too cold at the office.

But the reason why I feel I can't go to work wearing less than two layers is probably the same reason why my co-worker can't go outside right now without feeling pain. It's all a matter of perception vs. reality. I perceive the state of being chained to a desk as involuntary down time, and tend to slip into a sort of sleep mode in which I feel compelled to cozy up. And outside, snowless and sunny as it is, there's a perception of warmth and summer when in reality, everything is deeply frozen.

I'm deeply fascinated by all the new ice formations. Anxious as I am for some kind of snowfall, it's fun to see the creases and colors of elaborate ice sculptures in their unmasked state. It's like seeing Juneau locked in suspended animation - a world without winter, frozen. Today I rode out to the Mendenhall Lake area. The wind was mostly gone, which made the air feel leaps and bounds warmer than yesterday, even though it never climbed out of single digits. I can understand how those Fairbanks kids become conditioned to go outside in T-shirts.

Anyone who has ever visited Juneau on a cruise ship will probably get a kick out of this photo: Nugget Falls, frozen solid. With its suspended streams of white ice, the waterfall looks very much like it does in the summer. Only now, it's much more quiet.

My co-worker Brain took this photo of me as I was riding along the Mendenhall Lake shoreline. He often catches me out riding while he trolls the streets and trails for his latest masterpiece of photojournalism, but they never make it to print, so I hope he doesn't mind if I post this picture on my blog. I heard him screaming at me, but I didn't know it was him and couldn't tell what he was saying. I thought he was some jerk telling me to stay off the lake; meanwhile, the shifting icebergs and calving glacier moaned and roared like a deafening pod of humpback whales. "Does that guy think I'm some kind of idiot?" I thought. Instead, he took a picture. I usually don't manage to snap a photo that captures the thrill of riding the lake shoreline, but I think this one comes pretty close.