Wilder by Far

A look at life with the Wilder family. Updated most weekends and some vacation days. You can contact me at movingnorth@gmail.com..

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Location: United States

Sunday, October 23, 2005

"Fear is the only darkness." -That old blind guy who taught Caine in Kung Fu

Above shows the snowy goodness that is Alaska in winter. Actually, Alaska is the first time I ever saw the six-sided flakes that they made me cut from construction paper in first grade.

Part of preparation for winter up here is the physical, changing out tires from the summer (five months of use) to winter studded-snow tires (seven months of use), getting little booties for your dog to wear so their paws don't freeze to the ground, and getting your light jacket out of the closet so you can wear it until it gets to be around -5F.

You see the numbers and hear, hey, it's -55F in Fairbanks. Actually, it's a tropic paradise up here fed by volcanic heat vents, and we've just convinced everyone it gets -55F. We walk around in hula skirts and cocoanut bras. And that's just the guys.

Okay, that was a lie. I wear no cocoanut bra, but that's because I'm on the wild side.

It wouldn't be a lie to say that -55F is cold. Really cold. But it's not that bad. You can put on a jacket, gloves, and appropriate boots. The Mrs., when first she encountered these temperatures said, "It's not that bad." And, it isn't. I actually have come to enjoy the cold. When you've been out in it a bit working, and come inside by the fire and warm up, and stare out at the gently falling snow, that's a General Foods International Coffee moment. It's fulfilling at a fundamental psychological level, it's cold outside, and you're warm inside, and, dangit, you don't have to go outside until you leave for work tomorrow.

I regularly spend time outside at -20F in a sweater and jeans. Not for hours, but a half an hour wouldn't be out of the question. I wish I could say it was all because I'm so tough. Well, I am tough, but most people fairly quickly adapt (low humidity and nearly zero windspeed make the cold easier), and they need to - winter is as subtle as a Nine Inch Nails love song when it finally gets here.

The cold weather can be abrupt - three weeks from green leafy summery trees to a constant blanket of snow on everything. It's snowing this morning, again. It's a mental mindset change that gets me to get the jack out and sprawl out on the ground with The Boy and change out the tires on The Mrs. vehicle so that when it comes to traction on an icy Fairbanks road, her vehicle resembles a car, versus a carnival ride gone very wrong.

The cold weather, the ice, the snow are all things you prepare for physically. The other aspect is the darkness.

The picture above shows that The Boy has not completed mental preparations for winter - note the lack of socks, and the short-sleeved t-shirt.

On September 21, it's all the same as far as day length goes, regardless of latitude. That's why they call it equinox (from the Latin equi, meaning horse, and nox, meaning nitrogen oxide, or literally, suffocating horse)- it's equal, and equal everywhere, from Buffalo, NY to Barrow, AK to Buenos Aires, FL (that's kind of a long-term plan). Due to our high latitude up here, we end up seeing a quick change, though. Our days get 6 or 7 minutes a day shorter every day. That's more time a day than most people spend tweezing eyebrow hair. I know I've mentioned this before, but reaction to light is such a part of being human, it's hard not to mention.

Which comes to my crazy idea - put Alaska on US Mountain (Daylight or Standard) time. Why? Because it really doesn't matter in the summer what time it is, it's daylight all the time. In the winter, it really doesn't matter what time the clocks show, since it's dark a good part of the time anyway. For about three weeks a year we'd have funky clocks. So what? Business with the mainland would actually be easier, so, why not? With the crazy things the sun does, it really makes sense. It would be odd as hell, but, what about Alaska says sane?

Darkness, though, does require a bit of mental preparation. Soon, electric lights will become as necessary as they were redundant in summer. Soon, driving without your headlights will become as crazy as spending money on anything involving Jennifer Lopez. You see, our day isn't just as short as Tom Cruise, it will also (in about two months' time)be as dim as Tom Cruise. The sun, while it comes up, comes up due southeast, and after a few hours goes down due southwest. At the highest point, the sun will be just a tiny bit above the horizon. I'll snap a picture of it this winter for you.


Blogger chaipo said...

Count me in on the Mountain Time bandwagon!

I really like Alaska in winter too. Being from the midwest, the shortness of days and the cold is still very novel. My two favorite things, however, are the beautiful sunrises/sunsets with alpenglow (within hours of each other!) and how the moon can completely illuminate the mountains.

Sigh. Now if we could only get some snow here in Anchorage...

1:51 PM  
Blogger the Witch said...

Dark and cold all the time?

Yikes - this should get interesting.

3:58 PM  
Blogger Garry Nixon said...

Only rain here in Blighty.

11:21 AM  
Blogger John said...

I sense a groundswell!!! AK2MST!

Something tells me it won't be a long wait for snow down there.

Nah, we all gots 'lectric lights.

Ahhh, can't imagine winter without gobs of snow . . .

8:38 PM  
Blogger Woofwoof said...

I think The Boy needs winter tires on his bike.

7:56 PM  

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