I cannot let myself go to sleep yet. It is almost midnight, yet the pale blue light lingers in the sky all night. It’s getting tougher to sleep, of course. It’s definitely May here. For one, the mosquitos are coming out. And there are the good-bye parties. I was at one not long ago that was framed a “picnic” in 51-degree weather out on a patio. It was put on by the history department (I was taking Scandinavian history so I was allowed to sneak in) and awards were given to MA candidates researching topics like fisherwomen of Alaska, the Athabascan names of star constellations and minority population representation in Northwest Territory governments (in Canada). A lot of these folks give presentations and there have been fascinating lectures all year. To my regret, I’ve gone to almost none of them either because there was no one to look after Veeka or I was just too overloaded with my own stuff.
Anyway, the sky is still bright. Classes have ended, I’ve turned in my grades and am slowly cleaning up my office. Whereas a few weeks ago, all the trees were bare, in a space of about three days, leaves mysteriously sprouted out. They call it “the greening” up here. We remain here another two months to enjoy the Alaskan summer. On Thursday, we’ll depart on one of two trips I’ve been wanting to take since I got here. The first will be in the Yukon (as in the Canadian province) to see sights that we zipped by on our way up here. I can’t see us getting up this way again, especially with my own car, so we’re driving about now. A garage took the snow tires off and checked to make sure my Subaru, at 144,000 miles, is good for awhile longer.
Before the weekend, was 71ºF. Then it was 74. And then it was 75º this whole weekend. Curiously, we are warmer than Anchorage even though the latter is 260 miles to the south. But they’re on the water and we are not. I am finally in shorts although people were going bare-legged and in sandals while it was still in the 40s. I got to go to Anchorage several weeks ago to speak at an Alaska Press Club event there and to poke about the city. While at the airport bookstore, I began poking around the Alaska section and was amazed to find how many memoirs there were with titles like “One Man’s Wilderness:An Alaskan Odyssey” or “Memoirs of Life in the Kuskokwin Region.” The winner was this mouthful: “Homesteaders in the Headlights: One Family’s Journey from Depression-Era New Jersey to a New Life in Wasilla, Alaska.”
There were tons of photo books and stories about the Alaska pipeline, the Klondike, Arctic Circle, women of Alaska, the Iditarod, tons of photo books of beluga whales, wolves, statehood and even bars of Alaska. One was just called “The Spill” as if everyone was expected to know about the 1989 Exon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound. Or a book about Haines (one of the places we will visit hopefully this Friday) called “If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name” about “aging hippies, salty fishermen, native Tlingit Indians as well as the moose, eagles, sea lions and bears with whom they share this wild and perilous land.” It’s as if once you move here, you’ve become part of this moving tapestry of colorful characters who inhabit landscapes begging to be on reality shows.
Today (Sunday, the 17th), I took Veeka on a hike with me through the lowlands along the Chena River NE of town. It was a small loop that is part of a bigger loop called the Granite Tors Trail where the landscape of spooky rock formations looks like something out of Barrow-downs in The Fellowship of the Ring. Am dying to try it, but it’s a 15-mile trip that I cannot do in one day. And I don’t have the gear for an overnight trip. Hiking is not her first love, so I had to bribe her with a visit to a local hot springs afterwards. The day before, we biked a 10-mile round trip along the Chena River through downtown Fairbanks. This time the bribe was a stop at the fudge shop downtown. My daughter is a pretty decent biker, even if she was on training wheels up until just before her 9th birthday.
On Tuesday, I will enter the last year of my 50s, which gives me some pause, namely because I’m still job hunting for whatever I’ll be doing come August. Say a prayer, if you could.