I’ll never get it back.
Time. Time has escaped me in its typical fashion. By the time I look up, expecting to find an extra five minutes at the end of the day, it’s gone, and I’m trying to keep my eyes open until nine p.m. Sometimes, it doesn’t work. I’m not exaggerating. My son still thinks that five a.m. is a good time to start the day.
But it’s more than parenting an early riser. It’s summer.
Summers in Alaska are busy. They are blink-and-you’ll-miss-it busy. People spend all day outdoors, trying to soak up as much of the never-ending sunlight as possible, intent on making the most of what is about a three-month season here in the Interior. You really don’t know what a “long day” is until you come to Fairbanks in the summer. Here, we pack in grocery shopping, a doctor/dentist appointment, three sporting events around a trip to the playground, and a BBQ/bonfire all in one
How do we do it? You see, there’s this event Alaskans have been blessed with. By June 21st, the sun won’t really set. There’s something like 21 hours of official sunlight on that day, but it never gets dark. The sun merely dips below the horizon and we have a twilight-ish glow until the sun officially rises again.
The downside I find to Alaskan summers is–drumroll please–the lack of stars. What? Not what you were expecting? I miss them. I love looking at the stars, admiring their celestial glow and picking out the constellations. But it’s difficult, nearly impossible, to appreciate them in the winter here because of how cold it gets. Instead, stars are one of those things you appreciate from inside your warm home or car, that way you can look at them longer. There’s no sitting outside in Fairbanks and stargazing. By the time the weather warms up enough to do so comfortably, the stars don’t make an appearance until fall.
Don’t get me wrong, there are other downsides to Alaskan summers, too. Most everyone leaves the state to visit some friends or family Outside for a week or two, you’re trying to make the most of your summer as well, visiting your own friends or family Outside, or you’re outside playing sports, or driving your kids around for playdates and sporting events, there are BBQs and parties, graduations, summer jobs, etc., and before you know it, the blip that is summer in Alaska is gone. Irretrievably. Then the leaves have fallen, the nights are frosting over, and you’re seeing stars. Real stars. Turns out they never really left after all.
In some ways, that’s kind of how returning to Alaska feels to me. I’ve been back “home” in Alaska for almost ten months. In some ways, it’s felt like I’ve never left. I still run into my high school teachers at Fred Meyer, and high school acquaintances at Barnes & Noble. But there are days I miss our Outside home more than I care to dwell on or admit. At times I feel torn between Washington and Alaska, and although I’ve made new friends here, they do not replace the close kinships I had with my Washington friends.
Still, as my husband and I were discussing a return trip to Seattle the other day, I know that my Outside friends will be there–waiting, just like the stars, for me to look up and be able to see them again.