The Setting

Sorry for the delay in this week’s post. My plan was to have a new post every Monday. However, as I was writing this one, the Internet mysteriously conked out, and we discovered a power surge had fried the modem. It has taken this long to get a new one. I’ve been told this kind of thing “happens” here. Note to self: Invest in surge protectors.

For now, I’m going to make this a weekly writing experiment until I figure out what direction I want to go with this thing. It wasn’t exactly a blockbuster week, so I figure more background is in order. So, Alaska. From a Californian’s perspective.

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It seems kind of ridiculous to have to say this, but I’ve been asked about it before, and even held some of these assumptions myself at one point; but Alaska is not a vast wasteland of tundra, punctuated by igloos and polar bears. I mean, yes, it does have those things, but in the extremely far northern regions; the Arctic Circle is pretty much all tundra. The thing that everyone immediately assumes would be the worst is the snow, but you only have to put up with that about half the year. What really gets you is the day/night cycles. Where I am (in fact, where most of the people in the state live), the sun does set in the summer and rise in the winter. Just not for very long. Right now, the day length is fairly reasonable; sunrise at 7:30AM, sunset at 8PM, but everyday it’s getting noticeably shorter and shorter.

The wildly shifting sun wreaks havoc on sleep cycles, especially for newcomers like me. It’s bizarre to go to bed while the sun is still setting in the summer, or realize that you overslept, but it’s still dark outside in the winter. Other states have worse winter weather (I think Minnesota is generally agreed upon as the champion of tough winters), but no other state has this “temporal flux”.

Perhaps because the likes of the Discovery Channel have let the idea of “Everything’s Tougher In Alaska” go to their heads, Alaskans are an exceptionally proud bunch. Maybe not to the obnoxious level of Texans, but there is an amount of state pride here, that I am unaccustomed to. They seem to know it, too, and have a cheeky rivalry with Texas. There’s an industry of shirts, bumper stickers, etc. up here specifically for putting down Texas. (“Lone Star state? I guess that makes us the EIGHT STAR STATE!” I am not making that shirt up.) I am familiar with state rivalries; California has a couple, one with Oregon because rich Californians keep moving there and driving up housing prices, and one with Wisconsin because we both make cheese. But (California Cheese ads excluded) I generally don’t see anyone making money on something as crass as a “California rules, Wisconsin drools!” T-shirt.

Alaskans are also, as should be obvious, a bit of an isolationist bunch. A lot of people moved up here to get away from the other states, and the rest have naturally adopted a self-reliant attitude. They commonly refer to the rest of their own country as “The Outside” or “The Lower 48” with the emphasis on “lower” implying that they don’t just mean geographically (going back to the pride thing). National politics don’t carry a lot of weight here, either because most of it doesn’t particularly effect them, or because any national election is already decided by the time the polls close way over here. They also seem to be a bit offended that they generally get placed somewhere southwest of California on national maps (If they are included at all).

It’s a lovely state, still (mostly) wild and rugged. But, it’s going to take some further adjustment from me to get used to it, I think. “Beef! It’s a thing!” has been uttered more than once (Bear, pork, and reindeer are the more common meats up here). And enduring an entire Alaskan winter, rather than in vacation-sized chunks, will be a challenge. I’m told that “breakup” (May to June) and “fall” (September to October) are really the worst, because everything is damp and muddy, and looking outside right now, I believe them. I just don’t particularly want to think yet about driving down this mountain over snow. In the dark.

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3 responses to “The Setting

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