Life goes on very much as normal in Fairbanks when it's 50º below zero. On a day last week when the most accurate bank temperature sign in town read -52º F (this picture was on the front page of the local newspaper), and the Weather Service recorded an official -51º F at the airport, I drove downtown through dense ice fog to read to the kindergartners at Denali Elementary, just as I have every Wednesday morning I've been in town for the last 24 years. A few of the kindergartners were a little late arriving, but nearly all showed up, the buses were on time, and classes, business, and most other activities in town went on as usual.
I did a big grocery shop, hoping the cold would cut down on customers and checkout lines at the Fred Meyer (it did, a bit), took Dorli to the University to teach her classes, and was glad to be able to come home, park my car in our heated garage, and commute the few steps to my studio to go to work.
I painted 10 hours that day, late into the evening, and I was grateful. I was grateful not to have running water in the studio, so I didn't have to worry about its freezing-up. I was grateful for my little wall-mounted Home Comfort propane heater that uses no electricity, has run silently and constantly for almost four years without a hiccup, and keeps my tightly insulated studio toasty at any temperature. And I was grateful, as I am every day, to Alaska's Rasmuson Foundation, whose significant Individual Artist support made building the studio easier and better than it would have been without the support, several years ago.
In the studio that day, and for most of the week before and the week since, I worked hard on Colors of Winter. I almost never do "studies" for larger paintings, but this one grew directly out of a little watercolor birthday card (the image at left) that I made Dorli in November. The two feet of snow that fell at our house between Christmas and the end of the first week in January, and more that has fallen since, surely prompted the desire to do a larger painting based on that little "study."
I love our woods, lit by the low-but-brilliant winter sun, and I love running with Dorli on the new racing snowshoes that she got us for Christmas, on winding trails that are pristine and unbroken when we head out on them at first light. Few things in this life make me happier than seeing snow fall as we run through the winter forest. That simple pleasure is all this first painting of the new year is about.