Finding fortune in the immediacy of an Alaska winter

Have you been watching “The White Lotus”? Me and thousands of my newest, closest internet friends have been paying rapt attention as each episode drops on HBO every week. The memes are amazing. The show is better.

By the time this gets published the final episode of Season 2 will have aired. It has been a wild ride, and I’m very sad it’s coming to an end. There are too many highlights to share, but one recently resonated. In the penultimate episode of the season, “Abductions,” two characters had a dialogue that was basically the two halves of my brain in conversation. It went like this:

Character 1: “The world’s a $!%#-ed up place, so.”

Character 2, after a pause: “What’s wrong with it? It’s a pretty good world, I’d say.”

Character 1, incredulous: “Literally everything’s falling apart.”

Character 2: “...We’re (bleep)ing lucky! We’re living in the best time in the history of the world on the best planet. If you can’t be satisfied living now, here — you’re never going to be satisfied.”

In related news, I noticed recently that Alaska is really, really beautiful right now. Where I live in Palmer, the recent snow settled beautifully on all the branches of all the trees. Under the slump of glittering, blue-purple-white snow, everything from homes, to powerlines, to vehicles turn into a soothing uniformity of color and texture.


The weight of winter holds it and us all in place. It’s comforting, quiet and magical.

Making my way through a six-below-zero-degree dawn along the Old Glenn Highway, I enjoyed the feeling of the corridor of trees on either side, lit slowly in that late morning blue and pink Arctic dawn. The moon rose nearly full over the Butte.

The thought popped into my head, this is what I loved about Alaska winter.

It was strange to me that it was past tense.

I’ve written before about how, with climate change wreaking havoc on “normal” seasonality, my way of coping is to get really focused on the moments and enjoy them while I have them or endure until they pass. When the weird midwinter thaws arrive and melt all the snow, or it rains the entirety of July, I know it’s not just climate change. But the patterns are clearly worsening, and it feels like I can’t rely on a season to fully be a season anymore.

I think over time, with winter changing as much as it has, I’ve emotionally withdrawn from loving winter in Alaska as fiercely as I used to because over time it let me down.

Enter: a thought about the beauty of the moment I’m presently experiencing, but in the past tense. I don’t control my thoughts. I just happened to notice this one.

One side of my brain is aware that this moment, like so many others, is fleeting and part of bigger patterns than me. It’s weather in a broader climate. This Alli has the heady, rational sense that terrible things are happening simultaneously to this beautiful moment, and that I should enjoy it but not get too lost in or attached to it.

The other side of my brain — the gleeful, bordering on hedonistic Alli that revels in all things over the top, has a loud laugh, and little patience for brooding — sees glitter literally everywhere (snow) and wonders if it might be fun to be buzzing around in a little airplane right now, or on a snowmachine ride to a cozy remote cabin.

Whomever the gal is in charge up there in my brain, she typically gets it (I think) pretty right: I weave a path that lights up with fierce bouts of joy as much as I can get them, while also taking a longer view and doing things I know are right, even if they’re not as pleasant or immediately gratifying.

After all, to paraphrase: I’m living in the best time in the history of the world on the best planet. If I can’t be satisfied living now, here, I’ll never be satisfied.

And it is lovely to experience this series of moments of true Alaska winter as they come.

Alli Harvey

Alli Harvey lives in Palmer and plays in Southcentral Alaska.