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Alli Harvey: The real Alaska taboo is tiring of summer

Last week my stepdaughter, 11, looked up from her book and remarked, "I like winter better than summer."

She's said this plenty of times before, so I'm used to disguising my reaction to create room for her opinion (however misguided it may be). This time, though, she continued: "In the summer, everyone feels like they need to be doing stuff all the time. In winter, you can just -- sit on a couch, and read a book." Later that night we watched the movie "Frozen" and during the opening scene she sighed, "I love snow. I can't wait until winter."

The man on the radio had announced that sunset was at 11:35 p.m. The days continued getting longer.

Some parents have to teach their children about behaviors that are inappropriate in modern society, such as biting other children or eating food with their hands. I wondered if I owed it to my stepdaughter to gently explain that while I am accepting of her love of winter, she might want to be careful about whom she shares this opinion with. Alaskans generally regard winter as a necessary evil, with summer as the hard-won and much deserved reward. I worried that the brazen statement of "I like winter better than summer" might cause otherwise cool and calm Alaskans to start yelling or throwing things.

Then again, I allowed, maybe she has a point.

Do you remember when you first left your parents' home and started living on your own? Suddenly, Cheerios for dinner and leftover cold pizza for breakfast (whenever breakfast happened to take place, since you found yourself in the habit of staying up until 4 a.m.) was OK. After all, there was nobody around to tell you not to. Maybe in the back of your mind you were still a responsible human who ate well-rounded meals and went to bed roughly on time. But in reality, without some external boundaries in place, your patterns spiraled.

This describes my relationship to Alaska summer.

Without the parameters of darkness in the early morning and evening, my body perkily informs my brain that together we can accomplish anything we want to on any given day.

This is fantastic on Day 1 of what feels like summer, which usually occurs sometime in May. On this day and subsequent days, I tackle many projects. These include such Herculean feats as cleaning the apartment, shopping for groceries and gassing up the car, which would be plenty of activity on a dark day in, say, February. However, add to this mix going for a hike, riding my bike home and making dinner around 11 p.m. and that's not an unusual summer day. I sleep for six hours and get up and do it all again; on the weekdays, work is thrown in there too for good measure.

By Day 30 of this sort of routine I am exhausted. This is typically around summer solstice on June 21, a frenzied, 24-hour holiday in this part of the world. I look at the clock warily: 10 p.m. and it looks like 5 p.m. would at a less extreme latitude. Summer has only just officially begun, and I am fried.

It's around now that I find myself gingerly asking friends, "Hey... do you ever miss, you know, skiing?"

Exactly one friend can be counted on to morosely respond with an emphatic: "Summer is the worst. Winter is the best." One.

Every other person I know looks at me like I am afraid they might look at my stepdaughter. Their expression is a mix of ire and concern. They say something careful, yet revealing. Something along the lines of, "How could you even ask a thing like that?"

I find myself hoping for a rainy day. I need a respite. I need an excuse to stay inside with my stepdaughter, on a couch, with a book.

I don't say that too loud around here, though. Summer is too fleeting, and our feelings about it too strong for any one of us to let on that we too, might feel even a twinge of relief as the days become shorter.

Alli Harvey lives, works and plays in Anchorage.

 



Anchorage