I had met my best friend at that time during my short stint at a private college. She was from a small town in rural Alaska, and was transferring to UAA. Since I had never been to Alaska, and I was realizing teaching 5 year-olds how to read, write, and behave wasn’t for me, I embarked on the pivotal adventure of my life.
Alaska is state like no other. In the lower 48, there is some rivalry between states, sure; in Alaska, they call everything else “outside”. As in “not in the hip arctic circle”. “Are you staying here for Christmas?” “Naw, I am going outside.”
Local TV ads are filled with hunters, fur coats, furnace companies, and both sides of the oil business. It is not odd to see a commercial endorsing exploration immediately following one condemning it. Our most famous Alaskan to other Alaskans is Ted Saddler, owner of the Mattress Ranch. He does a flailing chicken dance to his theme song. Every single person you meet up here will know the next line if you say, “Get more--sleep without counting sheep…”
I am surrounded on three sides by mountains on my drive home. The forth, way past downtown, is the Cook Inlet - icy and gray, with glacier silt and muck for a beach.
I have been in traffic jams caused by moose calves walking across the road. There were two bull moose sparring outside my office this morning. My office is in midtown, by the way. Not the woods.
In the spring (by which I mean mid May), the ground thaws and brings a pungent smell of dung and fertilizing earth. People who own dogs clean up the masses of poo accumulated over the long winter when it was impossible to get to. If you were so unlucky to have a pet die during the winter, you take them out of the freezer and bury them.
The leaves don’t stay for long, and they don’t change to gorgeous autumn colours. Vitamin D supplements are necessary from November to April so the short daylight hours (I believe there were 6 of them today) don’t cause SAD (seasonal affective disorder) which makes you, well, sad. There are more months spent in my winter coat than out of it.
But when you see the purple sunsets, the baby moose, the fields of wildflowers, the clear mountain streams…it is a little easier to swallow.