Spirit Bubbles

Before I can stop her, Aki steps onto newly formed ice covering a mountain pond. I expect her to break through but the thin ice holds. She is a few feet away from four air bubbles frozen in the ice. The air was captured just below the surface. If the temperature rises a few degrees the captured air will escape.

            The Yupik people of Western Alaska teach that all things have a spirit, even bubbles caught in the ice. The spirit of frozen air bubbles was honored by a mask carver a hundred years ago. His mask hangs in the Smithsonian Museum. I made a copy of it while it was on loan at the Alaska State Museum. 

            The Western culture I was raised in doesn’t consider inanimate objects worthy of having spirits. That would make it harder to exploit natural resources. The Yupik people’s belief that even ice bubbles have a spirit is understandable given their close, dependent relationship on an unforgiving environment.

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