I love snow. I love snow and cold more than I ever loved sun and sand. This makes me a bit of an oddball in a family where temperatures dipping below 60, except for a select few weeks in January and February, are considered a sign of the apocalypse.
When I was young, the colder it got, the happier I got. Barrow would hit 20 below and I'd feel my blood starting to churn at the thought of a brisk walk across the lower lagoon where the wind chill would drop the temperature like a rock.
My friend Elaine and I walked our dogs every day no matter what the conditions were unless we were facing a total whiteout or a chill factor below 30 below. Our dogs frequently tried to drag us back to the car long before she and I were ready to come in from the cold. I can still picture my miniature schnauzer, Mr. T, trying to run in front of cars coming down Fresh Water Lake Road to beg for a ride so he wouldn't have to walk with the crazy ladies anymore.
Ah youth. The great thing about it is that we never think it will end. But it does. And one day you go out into 10 below weather and it occurs to you that it's cold out. Really cold out. So cold out that you finally agree with your dog that you shouldn't be out in it. And no matter how many layers of clothes you put on, you can't help but still feel the cold. Welcome to not youth.
I used to greet snow with the same enthusiasm I greeted frigid temperatures. Did a blizzard close Fresh Water Lake Road because of huge snowdrifts? Not a problem. Elaine and I would just climb them laughing. The dogs would stand at the bottom of the drift with a look that said they'd be there when we returned.
I think I can honestly say that this winter in Anchorage has stripped me of some of the joy I once felt when it snowed. I long for a walk with the dog that isn't a challenge of narrowed streets and impassable walkways. I want to go out and not need 30 minutes for dressing beforehand and another 30 minutes of removing 15 layers plus cleats afterward.
A very wonderful young man came over to my house on the day before the latest Snowmageddon and shoveled off my back deck. I had made some attempts to keep it clear so I could get to my bird feeders but had clearly lost the battle. I was afraid if I didn't get the accumulated snow shoveled off before the next dump, the deck would collapse and take the back of my house with it.
What had seemed a daunting task to me took Paul about 20 minutes. Ah youth.
As a friend from Barrow pointed out to me later, Paul is now the age I was when I first moved north. He has the enthusiasm and sheer exhilaration at overcoming whatever nature throws at him that I once had. The next day, after a night of snow, I tried to clear off what had fallen while it was light and fluffy. I'll be seeing my chiropractor in the very near future to correct that mistaken enthusiasm.
I still love this state beyond anything that can be reasonably explained. Saying to the world that I'm an Alaskan is a source of great pride for me. We are a state in which extremes are the norm and surviving all nature can throw at us gives us our bragging rights. I have to guess that the people of Cordova who have survived this winter's snowy onslaught will be telling tales of it to their children and grandchildren for generations to come. And with each telling, the drifts will be just a bit higher.
So despite the obstacles snow now seems to throw in my way, I'm not going anywhere.
My friends just have to keep raising wonderful young men who will shovel a not young lady's deck with a grin and a hug to keep her warm.
If only 10 below were not colder now than in my youth.
Elise Patkotak is an Alaska writer and author of "Parallel Logic," a memoir of her 28 years in Barrow. Website, www.elisepatkotak.com.