The city of Anchorage has officially called an end to summer. I wrote in one of my first blogs about how a friend had told me that the "official" start of summer in Anchorage was when the city put up the hanging baskets that line the streets of downtown. On the flip side of that coin, the city took down all the baskets yesterday. All that was left of them when I walked to work from the parking garage yesterday were the remnants of flower petals that had showered down upon the sidewalk when the baskets were removed. By lunchtime, even the petals were gone, after having been swept up by zealous sidewalk sweepers. Adieu, summer! Welcome fall!
We are in the process of moving into a new house with views that rival views I drive to Seward to see! We are still in Eagle River, but we are moving to a new place that will accommodate our family much better. The leaves on the trees in the backyard in the new place are already changing, yet another testament that fall has indeed arrived, whether the fall solstice has arrived or not.
I've been asked by friends Outside (outside of Alaska) how we survive the winters of Alaska. To tell you the truth, the winters in Anchorage aren't that bad. My mom told me that when we lived here when I was young that they weren't that much different than the winters I grew up with in Utah. If last winter was any indicator, the winters here are warmer than the ones I experienced when I lived in Whitefish, Montana and Chicago, Illinois. Granted, the darkness can make me a little less active, but I make sure to plan activities, regardless of the sunlight. That's one key, not letting the lack of sunlight keep you inside. Yes, it's chilly. Yes, it's dark. Yes, it can seem like winter lasts forever sometimes. There is, however, the gym. Last winter, Alex and I tried to go at least 3 times a week. We also planned snowshoeing trips to get us out in what sunlight there was, during daylight hours. Angie and I took trips to Talkeetna and Homer and Seward, which gave us something to look forward to, and a bit of a change of scenery. Sure, we were still surrounded by snow, but the wildlife and the people are definitely different and unique in the different places we visited. Just getting out and driving along Seward Highway and seeing the once free-flowing springs frozen by the winter cold was a wonderful get away. Alex has ski passes for himself and the kids for this winter, so they will be busy, and outside (that's a key, get outside) every weekend during winter. It also helps that the new house has a wonderful hot tub on the deck. Even if it's cold outside, we'll be nice and toasty, outside, enjoying the winter night air and hopefully get a glimpse of the aurora borealis. There's really nothing more invigorating or spirit lifting than seeing the Northern Lights dance across the sky!
There are other ways to get out of the house than dining at one of the Anchorage basin's many restaurants. There are several museums; the tourist shops that were teeming with tourists during the summer are now ours to rummage around in; there's the beer festival in October to look forward to; events in other cities, towns and villages to enjoy; events at the Performing Arts Center that we have tickets to already; many local theatre troops (including my favorite, Cyrano's). The Snow Goose has blues on Thursdays; there's the monthly First Friday Art Walks; there's Sidestreet Espresso for a great cup of coffee (latte, mocha, Americano... pick your poison); the Anchorage Museum hosts independent films and foreign films; and, there is MEETinAnchorage and the Anchorage Adventurers MEETup groups. My kids have also been reminding me of all the crochet and knitting projects I've neglected during the summer, and with the new house comes a beautiful new kitchen that I get the joy of learning to cook (all over again) in. I'm also going to spend the fall and winter reading up on wilderness survival, the plants and flowers of Alaska, mushrooms, and write out a list of activities so that spring and summer don't catch me off-guard with nothing planned (like they did this spring and summer). My fall and winter months are full, indeed!
There's no reason for me to stay inside the house, depressed that the weather isn't warm and beautiful, during the winter here. There's always something to do, it's just a matter of looking. So, how do I survive the winter here? The same way I do the summer. I get outside, I greet each day with a big Alaskan bear hug, I remember where I live and how lucky I am to live here with the people I love, whether the weather is warm or cold, sunny or snowy, splashed with spring color, green with summer foliage, yellow with the leaves of fall, white with winter's snow, foggy, rainy or beautiful and bright. Alaska is a place to be experienced, each day providing a new adventure, each season holding its own place in my heart and it's own set of activities in my day planner.
How do I survive the winter? I don't survive it, I live it, I love it, I relish it! When it comes, it's a new friendship all over again. When it's gone, it's another old friend that I miss till it returns once again.