Who moves to Alaska in the winter? November isn’t exactly the heart of winter, but it’s close enough. The lack of a sunrise before 9:30 a.m., the strange, heavy snow followed by a fast melt, the way the air takes your breath away when you first step out a door, this far north is exactly what you’d expect it to be this time of year.
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In the month since we ran to catch our plane at PDX, we’ve done a lot and a lot of nothing. Downtime after a huge move is good, and we’ve taken the cold snowy nights to watch movies, eat around the coffee table, learn how to tiptoe around the apartment, enjoy chilly walks down the Park Blocks after dinner and walk downtown to have coffee or watch the lighting of the Christmas Tree.
Call us cautious, we’ve made new friends, but good relationships often grow slowly, developing deep roots, so we’re not in a hurry. We’ve learned to like each other in cramped quarters. We eat dinner in shifts, because our dining room table is a green fold up for two.
We share a bathroom, which is decidedly tough with a nearly teenage boy who likes to shower every day, a younger brother who’d rather not shower at all, and a little sister who seems to have to go pee every 10 minutes or at least every time I am in the bathroom.
Because many people rent these fully furnished apartments by the week, we’ve had a lot of neighbors we never get to know. The good news is that after a month, Cheryl finally found out that there is a laundry room in the building, and she got the lock code. No more long nights hanging out in the green fluorescent light of the laundromat up on Fireweed.
We’ve seen many moose since we saw the big mama moose eating leftover pumpkins on our first weekend in town. Cheryl saw a huge bull moose in front of the library in midtown last week, and we saw another big cow and her baby on the way to visit Portage Glacier with a visitor.
We’ve been ice skating with the kids on the oval at Cuddy Park as the sunset just after 4 p.m., casting an orange-creamsicle light over the midtown oil buildings. And we’ve spent an afternoon sledding and cross-country skiing at Kincaid Park, with a stop for hot chocolate on our way home.
Saw the Nutcracker ballet and enjoyed evenings out and about at clubs and pubs.
Life is not perfect, but it is good. The adventure of Alaska is in the daily experience of living here. You don’t have to launch an expedition to go and find it. In a place so beautiful, danger is an overabundant commodity in Alaska.
On a long-enough timeline, Alaska will kill you. I can attest to this just in the news reported every day on our station and in the local newspaper. Living here is surviving here. Even in the crowded metropolis of Anchorage, death isn’t very far away, be it bullet, cold, car or plane crash.
The dark won’t kill you, but I can see why so many give up and go back south where the dark hours play more fairly with the light. There is a certain anxiety until the solstice comes around and the simple knowledge that the days are growing longer brings those first hopeful thoughts of spring around again.
My claustrophobia gets the best of me occasionally. I wake up feeling a bit stifled, but I know that is a product of the fact I haven’t driven much farther than the 45 miles it takes to get to Girdwood. I haven’t been to the valley yet. I haven’t been to Homer. Until I get a sense for the bigness of the place and the few roads that take you anywhere in this state, I’ll wake up feeling a bit stifled, or I’ll look out my window at work at the Chugach Mountains and wonder what is behind them and behind that.
One month and so much to look back on already. The adventure has good start.