Let’s talk about winter, shall we? In Alaska, winter is not terribly unlike your older sister when you were little. She was always giggly, a little crazy and thought she knew everything but you were inexplicably fond of her (and you thought she hung the moon but couldn’t admit it). You might have given her heck from time to time but there was no license for anyone else to do so. After all, she was your sister and that made her special. Granted, winter in Juneau is not like winter in the Interior of Alaska, but neither is it like winter anywhere else. This year in Juneau, when it wasn’t snowing, it was raining. When it wasn’t raining, it was misty. In between it was always cold. The kids sledded down our very steep and icy driveway… so much fun! The adults slid down the driveway in our cars… not so much fun!
Somewhere along the line, it all came to an end. The snow stopped falling, the ice melted, and we reacquainted ourselves with the sun. Spring/Summer loomed in the not-so-distant future and in the face of all of this, I felt a little sad for winter’s passing.
I’m probably not the only one who felt it, I’m just the only one who will admit it.
I don’t know why I feel this way but I have a theory. Alaska is the place where the seasons really mean something! We are able to celebrate the spring with great gusto because we earned it by surviving the winter. Shoveling the walkway, plowing the drive, paying a friend to plow it when the snowfall became so overwhelming we just couldn’t budge it, slithering along our snaking roads, strapping spikes to our boots to walk around, squinting in nearly perpetual overcast twilight. When the last cruise ship left late September, WE stayed behind. WE endured. WE nestled our little tribe of friends and found the joy of enduring.
All of which bring me to the point of this post. I’m going to spill the secret and reveal why Alaskans, specifically of the Southeast variety, actually crave winter:
15) For the Love of Winter Sports (Snow Shoeing, Skiing, Sledding)
I’ve spent a lot of time pondering why Alaskans were so set apart from other places in the fact that, wherever they are in the state, they actually enjoy the wintertime. Say whaaa! (As an Okie, you pretty much huddled down and prayed for those unbearably cold 45 degree winter days to pass quickly.) But now I know that reason. In order to survive here – nay, in order to thrive – you have to have some winter sports you enjoy. Unless you’re a librarian who is perfectly happy sitting at home reading books all day and/or running the library, you have to actually know how to dress for the elements and get out in them. (And seriously, God bless you if you are him.) You have to find a sport you love and get your butt outside! Even if it involves sledding down a hill you really shouldn’t have sled down because you’re the ripe old age of 30-ish but you did it anyway and subsequently injured your tailbone like a total dingbat. Not that I have any experience with that, and oh hey look, here’s some cute kids learning to ski!
14) For the Love of the Flame
Being able to go to any given beach or picnic area to build a fire and have it completely to yourself, there’s just something to be said for that. And is there really anything better in this world than snuggling up to your fireplace when it’s bitter cold outside? Alaskans get to do this all winter long!
13) For the Love of Snow
There is nothing like the soundlessness of falling snow. Millions of snowflakes in motion, countless tons of crystallized water blanketing the landscape, but it does not make a sound. It is a visual feast best served cold, all soft curves that gentle even the most rugged of surface. There are those who will tell you they do not like the snow. Do not trust these people. They are not from this world. (Just kidding… some of my best friends have found they’ve lost their love of snow after moving to Alaska and having been here a while, but I still love them.)
12) For the Love of Playing Outside Without the Fear of Being Eaten By A Bear
I say this in jest, but it’s actually partially true. I love that I can send the kids outside to play without having to worry too terribly much about them being eaten by a bear. I realize bears can “technically” be out during any season, but the vast majority of them should be hibernating during the average cold winter’s day. Don’t get me wrong, I love sharing land with these incredible creatures, but I’d rather not be eaten by one. Not today, at least.
11) For The Love of Photography
I’m betting that even the most amateur of photographers will tell you that some of their best shots come from the wintertime.
10) For the Love of Hard Work
The hubby was like a kid at Christmas, waiting for the chance to plow the driveway with the brand new blade on his 4 wheeler. A couple of months later, when the 5am plowing became a little too much the norm, he rolled over and nudged me one morning, with “Are you sure you don’t want to just try it?” I declined. He [again] plowed. Because seriously, good luck with the 9 inches it just dumped on us overnight. Onward and upward!
9) For the Love of the Glorious, Glorious Summer
Everything in life is defined by its opposite. Winter imbues Alaskans with the sense that we earned summer fair and square. So, by golly, when summertime FINALLY rolls around, if we want to fish until midnight, that is Survivor’s privilege.
8) For The Love of Layers
Some people may think t-shirts and shorts are nice, but as a wildly squishy mom-of-3, I love me some winter clothes! Sweaters, quirky knit hats with yarn balls, snow pants, all the varieties of the basic all-weather boots and XtraTufs, (and no this is not a paid advertisement, although I wish it were) just to name a few. The more square yards of fabric you are able to drape over your body, the more opportunity for color, design, and self-expression. See here, my self-expression says “I couldn’t care less what you think of me because it’s stupid cold outside and my lips are frozen and hey there’s a guy who’s way cooler than me climbing from a rope at the ice caves”.
7) For The Love of Knowing What To Wear
This goes along with the category up above, albeit slightly different. See, in the wintertime, you know you’re going to need gloves/hat/snow pants/layers every. single. time. you step outside. There’s no guesswork here because if you go out without them, you’re an idiot. (Which is me, about 97% of the time but I digress.) In the spring when the weather is just starting to warm up a few degrees and the sun is shining and it sucks you into its oh-so-deceptive web of deceit, you wear shorts then you freeze your buns off! You wear pants then you’re practically burning your way into an early grave! See… yes another reason the wintertime saves you from these craaaaazy dilemmas. I’ll stick to 4 layers of LuLaRoe on bottom and about 6 layers of sweaters/shirts/coats on top, thanks.
6) For the Love of Down Time
Everyone needs some down time. Lets face it, Spring and Summer are all crazy, frantic motion, and that’s another post for another time. There aren’t enough hours in the day to get in our fill of fishing, hunting, berry picking, Devil’s Club and Spruce Tip-harvesting, woodcutting, gardening and green-housing, just to name a few. Winter is the slow churn we need to catch our breaths and catch up on inside projects so we can jump up and do it all over again, come springtime.
5) For the Love of Snow Scream
Everybody should love some good snow ice cream. And if they don’t… again, you should run from these people. Just kidding. Sort of. Here’s my super secret family recipe.
4) For the Love of Walking on Water
I’m going to let you in on a little secret, but please do not tell anyone else; Some of us Alaskans secretly believe we can walk on water, and winter gives us the opportunity to prove it. Pick a weekend and watch half the town skating, skiing, walking, ice-fishing or yes, even curling on frozen lakes. Or, if you happen to be in Juneau, that comes in the variation of trudging across the Mendenhall Lake to crowd into the ice caves. Typically though, when I’m going to attempt to walk over a frozen lake, I consult with the neighborhood expert Brian Weed, who is a born and raised Juneau-ite (and founder of Juneau’s Hidden History) and really knows his stuff.
3) For the Love of Getting Stuck
When I got stuck at Eaglecrest ski resort, literally just happily backing into a parking spot, I had to document it so all of the world would see my foolishness. (I’m not afraid to look like the dingbat I truly am.) I guess you have to get stuck at least once or twice to truly appreciate the value of not being stuck. I’d like to thank God for keeping me humble and I’d also like to thank our friend who rescued us with his very own pickup truck not just once, but both times we were stuck. (That guy is an absolute Saint in my book, so if you don’t have a friend named Tricen I would suggest you go out and get one STAT).
2) For the Love of Northern Lights
This one doesn’t really need much of an explanation. There’s something about that wintertime Northern Lights experience that just can’t compare to anything else. And since it’s so dark outside so early (as early as 4pm here in Southeast), it just makes it that much easier to see the Lights on clear nights. I’ve seen them out as early as 8pm right from my back porch! Even still, each time I get to gaze upon them, it still feels as magical as the first time.
1) For the Love of Sun Dogs
You guys. These things are even better in person. I’d never seen them before I moved to Alaska. The way to describe them is some really geeky technical terminology that frankly would make my eyes bleed if I tried to explain it to you. Consult with Doctor Google if you really must know, because I am just not the person to ask. I like to call them “impending doom” because the last time I saw one it snowed relentlessly for about two weeks. But I can totally forgive them because they are simply glorious.
So, my friend, do you agree? And, if so, where are you located and what reason would you like to add?