Yesterday was a rare sunny day. In August so far we’ve had two of those. Every other day we’ve been inundated with rain. And it’s been pretty chilly (on the sunny days we got up to 60*F), by my August standards, at least. The grey skies and cool humidity are wreaking havoc on my hair, various joints, and my opportunities to absorb vitamin D. I’ve been going a little stir crazy.
Gratefully, the good folks of the Anchorage Borough saw fit to bestow me with this literary gem:
I’ll refrain from disclosing how many books I’ve read over the past two weeks and how many are currently stockpiled up on my desk. Let’s just say that I’m prepared for the long haul that the next six weeks might be.
Even though long-timers are consistently saying this weather is more typical of September and the fireweed has gone to seed several weeks too early, I’m not convinced. What should August look like? (Please don’t torture me with thoughts of sun and warmth we should be getting.) It’s definitely autumn on the Kenai Peninsula. Will September look like October or will we get a reprieve some time or other? I hesitate to turn my thoughts toward why my cross-continent drive might look like should winter settle in hard and early…
Also, interestingly, all the rain has brought up the lake level here to a max (so far) of 7 feet above normal and the water is lapping up against the building and spilling in. Good thing the building was designed for it. Our basement floods and drains efficiently (with all of the storage shelves build to keep everything at least 6″ off the ground – more than sufficient). There’s so much water here.
The last two weeks have been such a whirlwind that I almost don’t know where to start. When I decided to leave Yosemite for DC, I made the conscious choice to be open and see where the winds of opportunity would lead me. I fell into a great path interning with the Smithsonian and immersing myself in the urban experience of our nation’s capital. But mountains and wildness called and I jumped on an opportunity to spend a summer in Alaska.
And here I am. In the past eight months, I’ve lived in three very different places: Yosemite, DC, and now here. Specifically, I’m in the Chugach National Forest in Southcentral Alaska. The heart of the mountains, sandwiched between Turnagain Arm and Prince William Sound. My summer promises to be cold and rainy surrounded by unswimmable waters (due to the extremely cold temps and glacial silt content) and mostly unascendable mountains (due to lack of trails and treacherous, eternally snowy/icy terrain). Don’t read that as negativity. Read it as bafflement. At a wilderness that’s a completely different kind of wild. This is truly the last frontier.
But I’ve got to step back a moment and reflect on the long road trip that brought me here. I chose to drive to Alaska rather than fly so that I would have more flexibility to explore the state during the summer. I’m glad I made that decision. Already I have several small regional road trips in mind, starting with heading down to Kenai this weekend for the Kenai River Birding Festival. The drive itself was a huge life experience and an integral part of this summer. I went from DC, through North Dakota, into and across Canada, up the Alaska Highway, past Wrangell – St. Elias, and down into the Kenai Peninsula. All those miles and days of travel, with so many hours of boredom and introspection and new experiences. I won’t go into a play-by-play, but some summary highlights: I drove a fifth of the way across the planet; I have now been to Canada (4 of its provinces/territories, including the Yukon) and driven in a foreign country (note to self: be solid on the km to mi conversion beforehand next time); I’ve driven the Alaska Highway; I’ve seen moose, caribou, stone sheep, snowshoe hare, arctic ground squirrel, gray jay, harlequin duck; I’ve seen the Canadian Rockies, glaciers, braided rivers; and now I not only live in Alaska but also in a National Forest. It’s been a long summer and I haven’t even started work yet!
I recall longing for rain during my last few months in Yosemite. The drought had us all conserving water to an extreme degree. It had the rivers almost dry. It had a constant threat of wildfire looming over our heads. The drought and deep desire for rain was a mainstay conversation topic.
And now I have it – in abundance – and find myself longing for sunshine. If it’s going to be this warm in December, it might as well be sunny too. Just a little bit of that bright warmth reminiscent of cherished sunny California days. The grass is always greener, eh?
Christmas in DC is a strange thing. Not just because of the warm rain or the lack of being surrounded by family and friends. I had built up quite the expectation of what Christmas in a city would be. But drawing parallels between my experiences in Dallas and San Francisco turned out to be misleading. This city lacks a certain sort of festiveness. Maybe it’s because this is such a government town? Maybe it was the warm weather? Maybe the east coast is just weird? I mean, yeah, there were some decked out trees and some lights strung about, but… it was definitely more scarce than abundant. Where were the carolers and cheesy Christmas tunes? Where was that uncharacteristic friendliness of strangers and spreading of good cheer? Where were even the lights framing apartment windows? Seems like the most festive thing going was Zoo Lights where the zoo stayed open late and wrapped their trees in a variety of colored lights, and which is fortunately right next door. Other holiday cheery finds – like this one – were rare treats indeed.
It is pretty. And finding little pockets of cheer turned into a bit of a treasure hunt that had me roaming new streets and neighborhoods.
Good thing Christmas isn’t a big holiday in my personal world or this would’ve been a hard time of year. Though actually, it still is a hard time of year because the delightful weather of autumn has passed but the deep chill of winter is still running late. Winter, where are you and why are you avoiding me?
The solstice has come and gone. We’re officially in winter. And I’m feeling pretty let down by the whole thing. It’s been 70* here and sunny (not California sunny though – I’ve never lived anywhere that’s that sunny). Insult to injury? It’s snowing back in Yosemite. Do I have to move to Alaska to get some winter??
But, the flip side of non-winter is getting to pretend it’s still a time of year when you want to be outside exploring. For instance, this past weekend, in addition to going to see the new Star Wars movie at a theater down the street, we went and checked out Eastern Market.
Think San Francisco’s Ferry Building but not nearly as cool. But at least there was a weird overstuffed bookstore nearby.
I hear that Union Market is supposed to be much cooler than Eastern. And since we’re slated to get a good old fashioned Christmas rainstorm this next weekend (AKA no camping getaway) then checking it out might be just the thing.