I just got back from another trip to Alaska, my sixth. This time I spent a wonderful weekend teaching at the Seaside Yarns’ Mermaid Retreat. Here are a few thoughts from my journal.
There is no time in Alaska. There are only seasons — darkness for winter, light for summer. The cycle of life is different here than in a more temperate zone. Definitely different than the topics. Days, weeks, and months blend together into the slow pendulum swing from dark to light and back again. The hours of the day stretch to eternity in summer, shrink to nothingness in winter. A watch is useless. There is no reason to follow the clock here. The body wants rest in the dark months. The soul wants to play in the season of light. Perhaps we should learn from this wherever we are and let the planet tell us what time it is.
In the not so early morning in November, I sit looking across the water at the lights of Juneau. 5:30, 6:30, 7:30. Still no sun. Is it really morning or should I go back to sleep, listen to three more chapters of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and dream a few more dreams? The coffee will still be there waiting to be brewed when I finally decide to get out of bed, slip my feet into my fur-lined Minnetonka moccasins, pull on a cozy cardigan, and stumble down the stairs into the kitchen.
But the sky seems a little less black and I can start to see that it is separating from the mountains, the texture of the conifers remains black-black against the now blue-black of the sky. If the sun is going to rise, perhaps I should, too.
This is the first time I have been in Alaska in winter — but still it is actually autumn. Winter doesn’t begin until the solstice, that shortest day when here in Juneau, I am told, the sun will set by 3PM. That is not a day. That is a glimpse of hope of another summer coming, coming, slowly, slowly, but coming just as sure as the tide is rising.
The sun rises slowly and sets quickly. Last night, evening actually, I was settled in my apartment by 5:30 and it had been dark for a while already. I don’t even know how long. Being inside can trick you into forgetting that the days are so short. With our electric lights we think we can trick nature and keep the days the same length throughout the year. Why do we want to do this? Spoil the beauty of the ebb and flow, the flexibility of the rising and falling, the slow swinging of our planet through space, the pendulum of seasons, the natural flow of time.
Life ebbs and flows and I live — in the decade plus a few years since I left a day job in an artificially lit cubicle farm — I have slowly let myself fall into a schedule led by the seasons. In winter I stay home. I finish things. I knit. I plan. In spiring, I am ready to start new projects, get out, and see the world. I do a bit of travel. Summer is a time to make things grow — my books, my garden, my life, my ideas. And in the fall, I travel and teach and get ready for the rest I know I will need again by the time winter arrives.
And all of this fills my mind and heart as I sit finally with a cup of coffee and watch the sky slowly lighten over the sity and mountains of Juneau. I have no need to rush. I will wake up slowly with the day.