I have to remind myself that any place can be a wonderland. I left Massachusetts because I forgot how to do this. My mind became dark to the differences in the days, the hours, the possibilities in my world. Today I walked to downtown Anchorage at 9 am. The sun doesn’t come up until around 10 these days so the sky was morning dark. This is a little different than evening dark. Still, people have been known to show up for work at 9 pm up here. The Morning dark is kind. The snow looks clean.
It’s the weekend and the traffic is a bit less bothered in its hum. I take the 100 or so wooden steps which bring me from The Valley of The Moon to downtown which is in fact up. The steps are covered in order to protect the wood, just like an old New England bridge, but they are open at the sides. Half way up, I turn around to see the lights of midtown behind the curtain of trees.
Sometimes I rush up the stairs. like in midday when the runners are doing repeats and I don’t want to get lapped or in the evenings when a drinking party is taking place on one of the landings. Summer and winter I see people passed out. I used to have the Community Service Patrol’s number on my cell phone but now I don’t have a cell, just my own judgement.
Today I don’t rush so I’m not too out of breath. I choose to walk down an alley because the street lights are more distant and the buildings closer. I feel at home with the small garages and tiny trash sheds. This neighborhood, known as The Southern Addition, is full of houses from the 1930’s -60’s. Some of them have since been supersized but the majority are still cottages with a few dark cabins thrown in for fun. The garages are tiny. Not horse and buggy size like old New England but not big enough for the average Alaskan SUV which is parked out in front of it. The alley snow is packed down so it’s easier to walk than in the summer when there’s gravel underfoot.
A couple of women are out walking their small dogs. The larger the car, the smaller the dog. A man takes out his trash. I want to see what he’s throwing away. I wonder, are we part of the 99%? I think not. I think that we are part of the 1% and sometimes I refuse to see it. We are the 1% richest people in the world, and we like to look up at the 1 % richer than us and call them names. I need to take care of my own trash.
I cross the last small street before the Park strip and the commercial hub. As I cross, a truck speeds by with honkin’ and whuppin’. I think they like my candy cane tights. The morning dark is kind to me as well. I am older than their mothers.
At 9 pm one of my roommates comes home with lots of energy and wants to go skating. Instead of writing this, I bundle up and off we go. Turns out we didn’t need to bundle because the Chinook (warm) wind was up and it was quite temperate. There was even a little family skating close to the lights. We had our headlamps so we could skate the big loops. The ice looks a little more mottled in the dark, especially when it’s warm. I skated faster over the darker patches even though that meant I was more likely to fall as I couldn’t really see what I was doing. That’s the story of my life.
Some people say they couldn’t live here because it’s so dark. Depression gives me an edge on being creative with darkness. I know I’m not alone, I can see my neighbor’s Christmas tree lights from where I sit and down the street there’s a small house that’s really quite festive for it’s size.
Perhaps you are more like Spain and Italy, with no money in the coffer for such a display. Then join me and my friends in singing around the neighborhood this Friday night. We’ll be taking requests so as not to subject our neighbors to songs of The Christmas persuasion should they rather something from REM. As my sister Beth knows. there is a famous quote from My Antonia when the sleigh drivers have to toss the wedding party off in order to avoid being eaten by wolves. “We must lighten.” It’s a dark time of the year, and in the lives of many, but this is just another invitation to be creative and lighten.