Out of the Office: Ultra Pure White

I recently painted the living room of the house in which I am living.

The wall had once been a pleasant silver, but (lesson learned) a few too many burned candles in a five-star energy rated home had turned the walls to a dingy charcoal over the years.

Desperately seeking to escape this dungeon, the walls were rolled out with two layers of Ultra Pure White.

The difference is incredible. A heavy, headache, smoggy, depressed feeling that always lingered in the brain when in the living room has lifted to a light, airy, pleasant feeling that allows the brain to feel free and relaxed. It’s like walking outside on a clear, sunny day.

The battery-operated, fake candles make it feel even better.

I’ve thought about this as we’ve recently made the hard turn to winter weather and I’ve heard the requisite grumbling from many.

Let me clearly state for the record there are many things about cold weather I do not like. For instance, if it is raining and in the high 30s throughout Saturday in Anchorage, and I’m outside all day trying to photograph and take notes on two state championship football games, I won’t be a happy person.

But just as Ultra Pure White uplifted my brain, there are things about this time of year that I actually like.

The first is, as Paul Simon wrote, “Gazing from my window to the streets below/On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.”

Ever since I was a child, when the first snow of the season came at night, I would always wake excited and with a brain that felt similar to the new experience in my Ultra Pure White living room. There’s just something about the way the light changes with snow on the ground that makes me joyous.

It’s not just me. I used to live near an elementary school playground and can still remember the peals of joy as the kids stomped in wondrous fluff and hurled snowballs after the first snow of the year.

I also like the way the land will be suddenly transforming. Instead of running or biking at Tsalteshi Trails, I will be skiing. Instead of looking longingly out over Headquarters Lake, I will, in a miracle of nature, be gliding effortlessly on skates upon it.

Yes, I know it will be dark and cold. But I have uses for them, too.

For cold, it’s the urgency of now. All I hear about as a sports reporter is to focus on the now. This practice. This game. This workout. This next brief section of the race.

In the summer, in the warm weather, it’s easy to float during outdoor activity and not check in with yourself as often as you should. Lose focus in the cold, and you’ll be quickly chastened.

You must constantly adjust layers to stay warm enough to feel your hands, but not so warm that profuse sweat dooms you to a core meltdown. Before you climb the next section of trail, you must already be dressed right or sudden exposure to the wind will make you miserable.

For the darkness, it’s structure. As I said, I’m a sports editor. I’ve never been a morning person. It’s 1:30 a.m. as I write this. I finished my state cross-country story at 4 a.m. Sunday.

In the summer, when I waste time and stay up way too late, I don’t pay much of a price due to the expansive daylight hours.

That changes in winter. If I want to hike, I’d better be in bed by midnight with my gear packed and breakfast ready. On a winter hike, the impending darkness also adds an urgency and structure the summer lacks. That means that I’ll find myself back home by 6 p.m. with hours to do something useful — like read a book or call my parents.

Yes, I’ll admit, a big part of me is looking forward to the snow, cold and darkness of this time of the year.

After the football games.