Last month’s Listicle was 9 Things I Love and Will Miss About Alaska. You had to know the one that followed would be the things I don’t love and will not miss about Alaska.
- I adore Alaska summers. What’s not to love? The light. The long days. Summer Solstice, the day of the year the sun “rises” at 4:20 a.m. and “sets” at 11:40 p.m. I use quotes here because, while the sun does dip below the horizon, it does so barely and not long enough for the sky to turn completely dark. Winter is the exact opposite. The long, dark, cold winters are, hands down, the number one thing I will not miss about Alaska. From November through February, I go to work in the dark and come home in the dark. And I don’t have windows in my office. In other words, I only see the distant cold sun on the weekends and, even then, it isn’t the bright ball of yellow. It moves low on the horizon and most of the day is shroud in clouds so what we really get is a few hours of dusky light. My logical brain wants to be stronger than the influences of light but, for me, it’s a losing battle. I’m lucky though I don’t suffer from depression or the seasonal affective disorder (SAD) that many do. Still, the urge to hibernate in the dark winter months is strong. Watching television while lying on the couch under a fuzzy blanket appeals more than most other things.
- I’d lived in San Diego for four years before I moved to Alaska. People say California is an expensive place to live and people say Alaska is an expensive place to live. So when I moved, I was lucky. Alaska didn’t seem expensive to me because I was accustomed to California. But there were two exceptions. Pop (or soda, depending on where you grew up) was double the price. Double. The other sticker shock I suffered was the cost of fruits and vegetables. I can’t tell you exactly how much more they are but I can tell you just a few days ago I paid nearly $8 for a head of cauliflower. And what do you get for those prices? Not much. Because produce travels so far to get to our markets, the quality is poor. I have a friend, who, the first time she tasted a ripe juicy pear outside of Alaska thought it was terrible. Mushy, sugary. Gross. Her point of reference, having grown up here, was that pears were hard as apples.
- If you don’t believe global warming is a myth, you might want to skip this one. When I first moved to Alaska, winters were, well, winters. It snowed in October, kept snowing and accumulating until April when it slowly started to melt. May would wipe away the remnants and green would sprout fast and furious. The years I’ve been here are the geologic equivalent to a drop of water in an ocean, so to say I’ve noticed a difference in that time is really saying something. Last year, the cycle looked something like this: snow, melt during the day, freeze overnight, create ice skating rink conditions everywhere. Repeat. Repeat. It made for a long winter. My dog fell twice while walking on the grass in my yard. Driving is a hazard. Walking is impossible. This year is shaping up much the same, despite the prediction of tons of snow by the Farmer’s Almanac. While I never loved the dark of winter, I didn’t mind the snow. But ice? ice is another story altogether. And I’ll be glad to leave it behind. If I ever miss it, I’ll plan a trip to New York City for a few laps at the rink in the Rockefeller Center.
- Ever heard of the word Outside? I don’t mean the great outdoors. I mean the word that is written with a capital letter. A proper noun. To Alaskans, it’s the name of everywhere that isn’t here. I think it’s used to emphasize the “otherness” we often feel living in Alaska. Even in the largest state (by far) there is a sense of isolation. Ironically, I never feel it more than when I travel. Going to the east coast, for example, is not for the faint of heart. It is a trek. To put this in perspective, consider it takes about four hours just for a flight from Anchorage to Seattle where, then, the cross-country travel can begin. All this to say, I will not miss long plane rides or the cost of airfare.
- If Alaskans feel a sense of “otherness,” it isn’t just because it’s how we see ourselves. It’s how others see us too. Every Alaskan has a story of being asked about what it’s like to live in an igloo or being asked if a passport is needed to visit. Open nearly any catalog, go to the center for the instructions on placing an order. Go to shipping fees and find the asterisk. Follow the asterisk and it will likely tell you the prices are good only for the contiguous 48 states. That just irritates me. Alaska, like Hawaii, is part of the United States but we are treated like the ugly stepsister when it comes to shipping costs. I get that we are a long ways away so options like any type of ground service isn’t open to us. But for us to pay more than shipping a package from, say, Washington to Florida, is asinine. It strikes me as fundamentally unfair. I can tell you, there are companies I don’t order from because of the high cost of shipping. Even worse than increased shipping, some companies won’t ship to Alaska at all. Someone explain that one to me. Nope, won’t miss that. And, yes, I fully realize I might be oversensitive on the issue.
- Okay, so this is going to sound weird. I lived in Alaska for several years before the urge to duck my head finally subsided. I grew up in Wyoming and although we aren’t officially Big Sky Country, Wyoming has Big Sky too. One of the strangest things I had to adjust to when I moved to Alaska was the almost constant cloud cover. I think it’s one of the reasons Alaska never felt vast to me until my dad mentioned it during his first visit. (link) I no longer feel the urge to duck but I’m also looking forward to spending days on end in settings where looking up goes on forever.
As this posts, in Alaska we are only two weeks and two days away from the winter solstice. And a day later we will gain six seconds of daylight as we slowly march our way back to the longest day of the year. And, by then, if all goes according to my grand plan, my house will be on the market (or sold) and I’ll be months or even weeks away from launching a Supersize LIFE.