It’s cold in the Arctic this time of year...and dark. Those above the Arctic circle get no sunlight. It was on just such a December day that we first meet Katrina in the prologue of THE TRAZ. It’s 1986, she’s four and playing with her computer while Tanesa, her mom—steeped in depression—sleeps. Outside, the wind howls.
Much of what Katrina dreams, does and becomes in the BackTracker series of novels has its origins back in those Arctic childhood days.
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While I’ve never been as far north as Cambridge Bay, Canada where Katrina lived, I have been as far north as Yellowknife, experienced the mid-night sun during the summer solstice and a dog-sled ride during the winter one.
I’m familiar with snow and cold, long winters and dark days, having spent my entire life in central and northern Alberta, Canada. What one is familiar with often seems quite unexciting and not worthy of mention, but artists and artisans, poets and novelists know how to weave familiarity into their work and cast a new magical light on the ordinary.
So here’s some trivia that may help you appreciate four-year old Katrina’s life in the Arctic.
Bare skin exposed to the elements can freeze in a matter of minutes when temperatures drop and wind chill rises. Faces are often the only exposed parts of northerners when they face winter. However, even covered parts can quickly freeze, especially those parts farthest from the heart, such as toes and fingers.
As skin freezes, when does a person feel the most pain?
- When it first starts to freeze, a warning to cover up and/or get warm
- When the skin turns white and freezing sinks down into the tissue
- When the skin begins to warm and thaw
Oh, yowsers! I can tell you from experience, it is #3. When the skin starts to thaw, it is very, very painful. Almost makes you want to stay frozen. When skin first starts to freeze, one notices a bit of nippy pain but nothing severe. On the face, once the freezing sets in and white patches appear, no pain is felt at all. The area becomes numb. Fingers and toes may become increasing painful as they get colder, a stern reminder to get indoors, but if the warning is ignored, they, too, will eventually turn numb.
If the freezing is very deep and/or prolonged, tissue may be damaged beyond repair and amputation or other severe measured may be required.
Here’s an excerpt about cold weather from THE TRAZ: (Katrina is 4 years old and in Cambridge Bay. December 1986)
"I was going to come and see you, Daddy. Then I got caught up with the computer. I got bored with the Garfield game but I learned how to compose music using DOS. After supper I'll play you the song I wrote."
"Tanesa, that's why she needs a mother. Would you even have noticed if she'd taken off in the dark and the fifty degrees below to find me?""I would've found you, Daddy. I know how to get to the police detachment. I'm not stupid.""No, you're definitely not stupid." Dave sighed."I know how to dress for the weather."