I’m used to the cold, but Alaska’s darkness has proved difficult to get used to.
In my hometown in Idaho temperatures used to drop below zero during the winter, but the sunshine made those snowy days actually feel warm.
In Alaska, it’s different. This time of year the sun doesn’t fully rise until around 10 a.m., and then quickly turns around to start setting well before 4 p.m. And in those hours, it’s cold.
Everyone told me when I first got to Alaska a few years ago to enjoy the incandescent glow of the summer, because the winter would quickly become all-consuming. But now, in my second winter, I think I’ve started to figure it out.
I finally have the flexibility to be able to take off a few hours at lunch to enjoy the part of the day when the sun is high in the sky, even if I do usually sit by my window at home and gaze from afar to avoid heading out in subzero temperatures.
But on the weekends I’m trying to make more of an effort to actually get out — after putting on three pairs of pants, four tops, two hats, a scarf and two pairs of gloves. And my new favorite thing is to get out on the ice.
My dad taught me to skate when I was 3, and I messed around on outdoor rinks occasionally where we lived in Idaho and Utah, but he and my little sister were the hockey prodigies of the family. I played basketball in middle and high school, so I hadn’t pulled my skates out of my closet for years.
To pass the winter in Anchorage last winter I decided to pick it up again, and even though I just skated in circles, I couldn’t get enough.
This year it’s even better, because I take to the ice with my friends who like to skate too.
Jean Lake in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and little Daubenspeck Pond here in Kenai have provided me with a sense of solace, even as my hair freezes when it’s 8 below.
And hey, we started gaining daylight after the solstice.