Almost daily some data cruncher from Outside will send us a press release announcing how Alaska ranks according to various metrics. This week we learned that:
• Alaska is the most rule-defiant state based on factors like school bullying, underage drinking, drop out rates, arrests for prostitution and gambling, and other crime rates.
• Alaska has the record for most snow that fell in a 24-hour period. Take that, Buffalo, New York.
• Anchorage is the gloomiest city, followed closely by Portland and Seattle.
• Alaska has the lowest tax rate in the nation, at 5.03% of income, with an average of $3,030 paid in property and sales taxes.
So, the good news is that while we might be a pack of scofflaws with crummy weather, at least we don’t pay much in taxes for the joy of living here.
The problem with such arbitrary rankings is that, well, they’re arbitrary. They don’t take into account subtle considerations of the Alaska life. Why, yes, the weather can be a challenge, but that also keeps the riff-raff from settling here. Anyone can handle a tough Florida winter where it might dip below freezing for two days. But a dark Utqiagvik winter where the sun doesn’t rise for months and the wind howls off the Beaufort Sea like an angry walrus? You have to be tough to live there.
Beacoup snow? Sure, that can break shovels and help pay off the mortgages of snowplow drivers. For most of us snow means better skiing and snowmobiling. Anyone who has watched too many Alaska reality TV shows and thinks the Last Frontier would make an awesome place to settle down has to rethink their priorities come December. If they can get through 92 straight days of snowfall, they might fit in.
And that breaking rules thing? The flip side is we sure do love our freedom. We might challenge the restrictions of society, but on the other hand, Alaskans can be darn quick to help out neighbors.
All of which means that, yeah, we know Alaska can be a challenging place to live (except for that low taxes thing). If you were born here and stayed, those challenges have made you stronger. If you moved here and didn’t leave, you have been tested and made the grade.
Next Monday we rise the big hill at 1:02 a.m. for the winter solstice. That’s the point at which the daylight hours start getting longer. Yahoo, Betster persons! You made it. You survived one of the darkest winters ever. So cheer up, honor our uniqueness and celebrate the season, maybe with these best bets:
BEST HOLIDAY CHEER BET: In place of its annual lights tour, Bear Creek Winery and area neighbors have teamed up to offer the Bear Creek Holiday Lights, a drive-through event happening now through Sunday, Dec. 20. This driving tour of holiday lights along the Bear Creek Drive loop is free every evening. The lights are best viewed when it gets dark, generally by about 5 p.m.
BEST WISH FROM A DISTANCE BET: The Homer Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center will host a Drive Up & Visit Santa event from 2-4 p.m. this Saturday, Dec. 19 in the visitor center parking lot. Family cars may enter the chamber parking lot from Ohlson Lane in Old Town near the church. Families can stay in their cars and roll down the windows to give their wishes to Santa and/or the kids and family may get out of their cars for a photo shoot with Santa while social distancing from 6 feet apart.
Santa will be wearing a face covering and all kids over the age of 6 and family members are encouraged to wear face coverings. Kids may give their written wishes to Santa and he will put them in a big bag and deliver them to the North Pole. One of Santa’s helpers will play holiday music on his tuba for the occasion. Families cars will depart from the other end of the chamber parking lot located at 201 Sterling Highway to go either direction onto the highway.
BEST BIRD BET: The annual Homer Audubon Christmas Bird Count will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 19. For safety reasons, all participants will wear masks, stay distanced and work in very small groups. Unfortunately there will not be gatherings before or the potluck afterward. The intent is to continue the collection of the bird count information that has been done for over 40 years in Homer.
If you are interested in participating, contact Dave Erikson, the Count Compiler, at 907-441-7931. If you would like to participate by watching what comes to your feeder and yard, contact Kathy Eagle, the Feederwatcher Coordinator, 907-323-3789. For more information about this event, see the Kachemak Bay Birders’ website,kachemakbaybirders.org.
BEST LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE BET: At 5 p.m. Sunday, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services invites all Alaskans to “Bring Back the Light” by joining family or friends in your bubble and shining a light. Turn on flashlights, light candles or lanterns. DHSS writes: “During this pandemic, Alaskans have shown considerable strength to adapt and take care of themselves and each other. … Alaskans will come together to show support and gratitude for one another and our communities, take pride in our resiliency and look forward to brighter days ahead.”