Homer, Alaska – 11:30 p.m.
There is a quickness in their responses, a snappy smartness and a half smile. The irritability fairly drips off the walls, and our cabin fever is white hot now.
It’s springtime in Alaska.
They are simply a reflection of me. Grumpy when I awake and grumpy when I go to bed.
I’m tired and confused. Just two months ago my world was covered in eternal darkness. Awake in the dark, drive to work in it. Attend a two-hour meeting, and it’s still dark when you strain your eyes to see if it’s snowing again outside.
And the sun sets two or three hours before you go home for the night.
Pull up and shine your headlights on your driveway full of snow.
And then even more suddenly then not; it’s light when you wake up to get the kids up for school. The light streams in from the corners around the blinds. Two weeks now, and I’m still amazed by it every time I see it.
I’m home from work, and the sun is so high we go kicksledding down the coastal trail until we run into a moose too big and mysterious to let us pass.
We turned around.
Dinner comes and goes, and still the sun hangs there like Joshua’s Long Day.
The kids fall asleep with beams of setting sun protruding into their rooms. God knows I could never sleep like that. I’d lie awake for hours and hours until total darkness bored me to sleep.
I drive out to Point Woronzof to shoot the sunset for the hundredth time. But it takes longer and longer each time. I can only spend so much time distracted by the slow melting of 129 inches of snow.
Home and darkness, finally. Somewhere I have a photo of our May trip to Homer and daylight at 11:30 p.m. That’s only a month away.
Springtime in Alaska is mix of raw, pent-up emotions, shear boredom, wet cuffs, hydroplaning for fun, t-shirt skiing, re-frozen melt water and watching the proverbial water boil while you’re waiting for the proverbial snow to melt.
And the inexorable swing of daylight. This is not the land of balance I grew up in, the astonishingly consistent Oregon of my youth. Rain and gray were a blanket of comfort in a world only slightly susceptible to floods and Columbus day storms.
There is no day where you recognize twelve easy hours of sunlight and twelve easy hours of not.
Like the tidal bores that make Cook Inlet impassable by any but Mr. Cook himself, the dark rushes in like a two-mile wave and out again as if a tourist fleeing the winter chill.
After work we go driving just to eat up daylight hours. Soon there will be too much to digest, and you just sit and pretend its not there.
God forgive you for sidewalking during breakup. The power boys in their lifted trucks love nothing more than hitting eight inches of standing water like it needs to be punished, Moses parting the Red Sea without the help of the Almighty.
I wear Xtra-Tuffs so often there is no more hair up to my knees from the constant rubbing of the neoprene Alaskan national footwear.
There is a raw energy, like what the dogs harnessed and ready to race the Iditarod must feel. The need to get the kids outside and burning off the winter stores is like an itch that won’t go away.
We stand in the kitchen and throw around possibilities like trying to find that last piece in a jigsaw puzzle. Skating, skiing, hiking, snow shoeing, snow machining, too many words that begin or end with snow. The decision is never unanimous.
It’s springtime in Alaska.