Summer Solstice in Seward, Alaska, was bittersweet this year, as usual. As midnight approached and I could still clearly see the beauty and vast magnitude of Resurrection Bay and the still snow-dappled peaks of the Kenai mountain range beyond, I felt both blessed and depressed.
Mt. Alice, the photogenic peak featured in so many of my shots of Resurrection Bay, is 5,318 feet tall and stole my heart five years ago on my first trip to Seward. It seemed only right for her to stand front and center in my midnight Solstice photo this year.
Admittedly, I can tire of the Seward waterfront pretty quickly when the weather turns rainy, the mountains are shrouded by low, dark clouds and the wind whips in bitterly from the mouth of the bay and the unrelenting Pacific Ocean beyond.
But oh! When it’s sunny, bright and clear, it’s got to be one of my favorite places on earth to be. I could sit and gaze at the bay, mesmerized by the movement of the water, the gulls and cormorants swooping and soaring above the surface, being periodically jarred from my happy trance by the appearance of otters or Stellar sea lions cavorting and fishing just beyond the surf line.
I’ve spent more than a few sunny mornings sitting at my spinning wheel in just such conditions, barely aware of spinning as I immersed myself in the scene in front of me. The ever-present Kenai range is always a stunning backdrop to the sometimes peaceful, sometimes restless mood of Resurrection Bay.
When the afternoon wind comes up, as it often does even on warm, sunny days, I simply move my wheel inside the RV and continue my reverie.
But what, you may be thinking, does this have to do with my blog title?
It’s all about summer, you see. Here in Alaska, summer is flat-out glorious. Bigger than life, with up to 22 hours of daylight at its peak. Further north, the sun doesn’t set during the summer at all.
In recent years, I have found myself trying, at times rather frenetically, to fit as many summer activities as possible into what is sure to be too short a time.
We’re past the Solstice now, which inevitably means we are losing more daylight each day as the countdown towards winter begins. I know, I know … it’s not even July yet. But still.
Shudder. I don’t mind a rainy day or even a rainy week. But then I want the sun and warmth to return. In a week or two – not five months later.
I have come to a point in my life where I need to either make peace once again with the fact that winter inevitably follows these sun-drenched Alaskan summers and just know in my heart that summer will return eventually … or I need to pack up and drive south.
I did not used to feel this way, and it concerns me.
You see, for nearly forty years (counting living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as well as here in Alaska), I’ve thoroughly embraced the four distinct seasons we are blessed with in these northern climes.
Spring, summer, fall, winter. Each was magical, each had its own unique beauty. It was all part of the never-ending kaleidoscope that was my life.
I’ve always LIKED the changing of the seasons. It was such a vibrant difference from the non-stop sameness of Southern California, where I spent my first thirty years.
I remember with great nostalgia the many times I bundled up in my insulated snowsuit and trudged through the snow in the dark morning hours to feed my Pygmy goats. Heck, I hauled two five-gallon jugs of warm water on a sled twice a day, all winter for nearly twenty-five years – and I loved my life.
Catching sight of the first crocus buds peeking through the snow in late winter or early spring would send me flying to my seed catalogs to start enthusiastically planning my summer gardens.
The onset of summer meant the annual blooming of first the cheerful pink wild roses, then the soft purple of Alaskan geraniums along the driveway and roadsides and lastly and most anticipated, my favorite brilliant tall fireweed stalks bursting bottom to top pretty much everywhere with the most beautiful deep pink blossoms.
But last week, when I noticed fireweed beginning to bloom in my yard, my first thought was not appreciation of its beauty. Instead, it was, “Oh no, not fireweed already! It’s not even July yet!”
I also used to anticipate with glee the first hints of changing colors in early autumn, looking forward to the spectacular yellow, reds, golds and oranges soon to come. While I still appreciate autumn, it didn’t used to be dimmed by thoughts of the darkness soon to follow.
When did it all change?
I think perhaps buying my Winnebago motor home in 2017 might have been what inadvertently tipped the scales.
I suddenly had the means to travel, and almost immediately found myself wishing to drive south. I wanted to experience driving my RV through Canada and then on to my son’s home in Oregon for an extended visit.
I’ve harbored this dream ever since, and it has altered my perception of what used to be the best part of living in this ever-changing, spectacular landscape. I no longer look forward to winter.
It’s not that I no longer love Alaska, or that I’m sorry I met Jerry and moved here in 1997. I’m not sorry. Not in the slightest. I’m also not sorry I bought “Roada”, even if she has caused me some conflicting emotions.
But with the end of each summer and the onset of each new fall, the dream of packing up and driving south grows dimmer along with the fading light. I’m not getting any younger.
I don’t have to STAY south. I just want to GO south for at least one winter. Is that so much to ask?