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Outdoors/Adventure

The nonstop pace of the Alaska summer is giving way to dark nights and deep thoughts

  • Author: Alli Harvey
    | Alaska Outdoors
  • Updated: August 7
  • Published August 7

A biker descends from Resurrection Pass, soon to pass the Devil's Pass cabin and then down to the Cooper Landing side of the Resurrection Trail, July 1, 2017. (Anne Raup / ADN)

Fish are in. Blueberries are appearing up north and up high. Raspberries are out. My husband observed with awe and relief last week that it was fully dark in the middle of the night.

Summer is coming to a close, and I can viscerally observe and feel it in my surroundings and in myself.

Years ago when I was single and lived in Anchorage I would go for these really long walks alone. I’d go during any season, but particularly when it was colder and generally a sleepier time of year in the city. I liked to listen to music or podcasts and meander on the Coastal Trail. Friends who ran into me while I was out walking would tease me for “brooding.”

In contrast, I’ve noticed that during the summer I tend to be high-octane. I want to ride my bike. And again. Again! I want to stay up late, hike something, throw a lavish cocktail party, and then go back out and hike something new. I will stay outside on the sunny deck reading a book until I am forced, sun-drowsy, back into the shade. My drumbeat in the summer is more, more, more.

And now, as the season is subtly changing from summer toward fall, I feel myself stepping back into that brooding place more. There’s no shortage of things to feel; plenty of heavy music and podcasts to listen to.

As much as I’ve craved the summer and have admittedly enjoyed this year’s uncanny heat, now I’m excited when I wake up in the morning and it’s 50 degrees out. I drink my coffee on the couch that has somehow become a staple on our porch. I imagine I’m on a brief vacation before work, sitting here in beautiful Alaska as the season shifts.

I don’t look forward, exactly, to fall. It is my favorite time of year but I know it’s coming our way soon. I’m still taking full advantage of the sunny afternoons. I hike the hikes and continue to be obsessed with riding my bike on trails.

Winter has been rough on me these past few years so I can’t say that I’m psychologically prepared. But I’m starting to round that corner toward exhaustion.

Someone told me once when I moved to Alaska that by the end of summer you could sense a general, collective sense of relief. That the waning days make it so we don’t feel endless pressure to be outside and get as much sun as possible to store in our batteries for winter. Even on a rainy day in the middle of summer, I was told, Alaskans gladly take the excuse to hole up and just read a book.

I had a hard time comprehending this at the time. I didn’t understand the momentum and force behind the extreme seasonal swings, and how it feels to be part of that cycle as a person.

Winter in Alaska isn’t just winter anyplace else, it’s darker and colder. And then in the summer, we get pitched into dizzying daylight and a frenzied push of things coming alive. For me, spring barely counts as a season because it comes and goes so quickly — there’s this moment where everything is a puddle, followed soon after by a minute-long realization that the color green is, in fact, real and suddenly everywhere.

But fall is for contemplation. Fall, for me, is truly the year beginning again. It’s wrapping up the summer, and for many living things it’s death.

That sounds bleak, maybe, but I always have that sense of things coming to closure in fall. It doesn’t mean the full stop, hard end to things, but it means I’m suddenly a lot more deeply reflective than I’ve allowed myself to be during the insane pace of the summer. Things sink in more. Sometimes, in an overwhelming, all-at-once kind of way.

I don’t go for those long walks anymore. My life has way fewer pauses, which is fine for now. I prioritize time exercising and time outdoors, which in a way is all about pause. But as the season continues to sink in, I know that I’ll still experience that contemplative side of myself more. It suits my mood. It suits the season. It is, after all, finally dark at night.

Alli Harvey lives in Palmer and plays in Southcentral Alaska.

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