Sunday, November 23, 2008

Winter in Alaska - The Last Frontier

Alaska has been good to us. True it gets COLD here, but more than the temps, it's the LONG winters you'll hear me whine about. Don't get me wrong, winters are beautiful, but frankly, I could do with a month or 2 less winter -- how about skipping January and/or February -- that would do it for me!

We live in a truly beautiful valley; in fact it was called "Little Yosemite" by the first Anglo explorers. But the price we pay is that we don't get much sunshine during the winter! At our house we lose el sol completely for about 6 weeks (blocked by the mountains) starting at Thanksgiving -- when it comes back in mid-January, it seems like such a treat to get sunshine for 10 minutes! Every day, we'll earn a few more minutes as it shines through this one gap in the mountains -- the rest of the time I can tell it's just below the ridgeline. To me it seems like a long wait until we bask in the sun again all day -- but the prof points out it's only 5 weeks or so -- like I said before: how about skipping Jan and Feb and just fast-forward to March!

Alaska has been a blast! We're surrounded by amazing beauty and wildlife, and it's a great place to raise a family. We moved to Alaska in 1996, when Eldest was in 4th grade, and the lil' Wolf still in diapers (age 2). Youngest was just a "twinkle in her daddy's eye". We lived in Fairbanks for the first 3 years, where the pixie was born on a -20 F day. Here's a picture of her as a bun in the oven in Denali.
The long darkness has it's effect on moods, however. Ever heard of "Mood disorders"? Sounds like a case of the moody blues, but it is very real and painful. SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) affects many Alaskans, and seems to get worse with age.

So you may ask how do you get through the winters? Well, hobbies help. The winter Liesl was born I started quilting with a fury -- I knew I would not be getting out of the house much! I've made tons of quilts since then, including this king-sized Alaska quilt that hangs in our family room.
SAD lights are another tool, if we would just be better about using them every morning -- but sometimes it's the last thing you want to do on a dark winter morning -- frankly, crawling back in bed is one's natural tendency, and we do sleep a lot more during winter... But the most important thing is to keep active and going outside (anyone up for a jog on icy roads?), and getting regular exercise. Kids are active and trim, but the prof and I aren't doing so well in that department, and the waistlines are expanding... Yes, we belong to an Athletic Club, but it's so tempting to just nap on the couch instead!

I remember my first September in Fairbanks, hearing the sandhill cranes honk as they were gathering in preparation for their long migration to their winter grounds. I remember getting this sense of "Oh no, what do they know that I don't?" I was also surprised by how few retired people we met. Many professors planned on leaving the state after retirement. Those that stayed, and who could afford it, will spend at least spend some of their time (and money) traveling south during winter: we call them Snowbirds, and it's a form of migration. We're already starting to do that a little bit ourselves: spending our winter or spring vacation going to someplace sunny, like the desert Southwest. Just learning from Mother Nature and following those Snowbirds south!


timekpr said...

This is such a cute picture!!! Eldest is soo young and wolfman is so cute and little

timekpr said...

What's the URL for wolfman's blog will you emial it RunninL8's email please?