Monday, April 22, 2013

Springtime in Alaska…or not

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I try not to ponder the great mysteries of life too often. For example, what if the traffic light is green but no cars are moving? Is the traffic light really green? More importantly, will those two containers of ice cream in the trunk melt by the time it truly is? Such musings only lead to despair, disappointment, or in extreme cases, the need to get the car professionally cleaned.

In that vein, calendars officially state spring begins on March 20. (The state of Alaska needs a good attorney, at the very least we could get the calendar companies on fraud.) I should know better after all these years in the hinterlands, especially since the snowplow came by on Saturday. And as I glance out the window (tip: never do this while writing about springtime in Alaska, things will turn out ironically) I note that it has started snowing. So those advertisements encouraging me to buy capri pants are especially galling.

My “public service announcements” practically write themselves because Alaska needs explanation. We are different. Weird. (I would say freaky, but it’s a matter of taste.) So here goes. Calendar companies, pay attention!

It is only springtime in Alaska when:

1. the buzzards come home to roost. Or in reality, since we have no buzzards, the Canada geese honk their way into town. I saw about 100 today, winging their way north in a V-formation (or maybe a giant, malformed “W”).

2. the scent of manure rises. I’ve written about this before, and I’ll probably grouse about it again. Scoop your poop, dog owners! Freshly revealed by the melting snow, partially mummified canine feces litters street sides, sidewalks, and trails in my town. I am walking or biking around it like a boat trying to avoid a minefield. SOS! Full starboard! Blech!

3. dipnets are for sale again. Saw them at Sam’s Club last week. See you in July, you rascally salmon, you.

4. potholes the size of Luxemburg appear in the roads. Bye bye transmission box. So long, right front wheel. On a positive note, the winter studded tires get changed out for a supple summer set.

5. people forget how cold it really is outside. I mean, who needs sleeves, let alone a jacket? Clearly not that gentleman I saw entering Wal-mart on Friday in a tank top. Never mind that it’s 30° Fahrenheit and the snow is still covering the ground. The calendar said it’s spring, so there will be exposed flesh.

5. the motor homes awaken from their long winter’s nap and begin to hold up traffic by driving approximately 20 miles per hour less than the speed limit. When the traffic light turns green (see first paragraph), the driver counts to ten, texts mom, then accelerates. Sort of. I think they sign a contract about it.

6. winter boots feel like overkill, but summer shoes would be ruined. I do not have the answer to this problem. Some wear rubber boots (XtraTufs are a cult), others do the Dansko clog thing, and some even go straight to flip flops. Well, you know what grandpa says, “You can’t fix stupid.”

7. the first summer adventure trip is planned. We are rafting the Tazlina River this summer. Also the Gulkana. Definitely Kenai. Another sign it’s spring: over scheduling.

8. the first garage sale sign appears. Hallelujah, it’s spring! Pursuit of “the good deal” is almost as popular as pursuit of the salmon.

9. sunglasses are needed at 7am. 

10. garden ads are heard on the radio. Nurseries are open for those fuchsia starts. Game on! (I got carried away with myself just now. No game for a couple of weeks at least. Sorry about that. Keep those plants indoors for a bit longer.)

So you see, dear calendar companies, planetary cycles notwithstanding, spring is not spring in Alaska until…it is. Or at least until you are parked for a couple of minutes at a green light. Until then we call it winter.


Seen any capri pants lately? Has spring arrived?


  1. We had some snow yesterday - hard to believe but true. Not like the snow you have in today's photo, but still snow. It is time for Spring. Thought I do enjoy looking at the lake out my windows when the snow flys, I need Spring - NOW. See you soon. Jack

  2. You are not the only one with snow this week. Yesterday we had snow, however it has all melted. When will Spring come here to Lake Michigan. I have had enough of Winter.

  3. March 20 feels like an overestimation is most parts of North America. I laughed at your list though, I too have been watching geese and flip flop wearing RV drivers at the Walmart. Sure signs of spring if there ever was one.

  4. Camellia japonica's still blooming heavily, crazy. last year they were done at the end of March.

    Love your summer plans.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  5. Hi Christine, if only Alaska could take its cues from western Oregon where the weather gods have been in a seriously good mood this year. Perhaps it's due to the fact the last several springs have been rainier than normal and they figured we were ready for a change. Either that or they actually read the calendar. At any rate, keep those flip flops and capris handy. Spring is coming. I'm sure of it.

  6. That made me laugh :-)Loved the post ! Spring is FINALLY here in the uk but has arrived to the party very late ! Is anything growing in your garden yet ?

  7. We are nowhere near as extreme as you are, but early April often finds us still covered with white. Spring snow storms in early May is not uncommon. Winter is not over till it's over, but meanwhile the days are longer, no matter what the weather!


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