I didn’t get to bed before 2 a.m. 2 out of 3 nights this past weekend. It wasn’t just the light, it was the way the light enables every aspect of staying awake.
Darkness, being the inhibiting force of reason that causes all of us to retire at a proper time to satisfy our body clocks, is kept at bay in an Alaskan summer.
Where there is no darkness, there is nothing to fear. There is no unknown, and therefore the familiarity of the light leads one to crack another beer, fire up the grill at 11 p.m., sit out on the porch at hours only the working ladies of Spenard are familiar with.
Even when the strange northern summer twilight occurs at some ungodly hour in the night, if I’m awakened by the noise of a creaky pipe, my eyes are flooded with something so strange at that hour, pale, uncomfortable, preternatural daylight.
The sun is so high in the late afternoon, it almost makes you weary with its stubbornness. After making dinner for the kids and cleaning the house up and putting away the yard toys, it’s so light I can’t turn down a game of football in the backyard, which eats into my book reading and iPad app hunting time.
Even when my daughter has nearly fallen asleep on the grass in a sunbeam after 9:30 p.m., there is something so wrong about the words I utter. “Bed time!”
Tonight I was driven inside by the unrelenting vampires of the north. Yes, the great Alaskan summer should be anathema to them, but these are those which buzz your ears with an unearthly whine that makes a normal human duck and slap their bodies in a mad frenzy. The state bird, a virtual Chinook helicopter of a bug. The bloodthirsty Alaskan mosquito, a creature so ubiquitous its numbers seem to increase proportionately with the daylight.
And I sit and stare up at the sun filtering in through the basement window. Yeah, though I hide away from it, I know it’s there. Even after I retire away to a dark room, I can see it taunting me under the doorframe.
Even locked away in complete darkness, my inner-8-year-old cannot fathom rest when I know there is enough light to do something, anything out there.
My adult body wants to drift away to sleep, but that holdover from childhood, the understanding that light equates to play time, won’t let me shut my eyes and put the thought of it out of my mind.
Yes, I’m aware that I write about the long daylight here in Alaska too much. Part of it is that I just don’t understand its hold over me. It can’t be as simple as just my stubborn childhood dislike of going to bed while it was light outside. Perhaps it can, but I refuse to believe it’s so simple.
I suppose I’m just fascinated by the change in myself in the midnight sun. I don’t like to think of myself as a creature of the dark, but I love the sunset and the fade to black that a good ending to the day brings, much like the fine’ on a great film.
Summer in Alaska finds me restless and wrestling with too many thoughts that are usually put away by the solitude and quiet found after dark.
And I may be the only human in this state counting the days until the solstice, a day so much less to me than the beautiful day when there are 12 distinct hours of daylight and 12 distinct hours of darkness. Or something like that.