Only two weeks since I last pounded the Anchorage pavement and what a difference! Bright green lawns, the dirty piles of snow finally melted into dusty trails along the sides of the roads, the floatplane harbor ice-free for the season, and the arctic terns once again partying in Potter Marsh for their annual bacchanal of breeding.
I am not here for sightseeing or exploration. This is a gathering of the family to celebrate the life of my aunt and guide each other through the surreal, but humanly beautiful process of grief. Just being here, in the embrace of the mountains, has already fed my spirit.
I joined my parents in a walk around my cousin’s neighborhood, the sun glaring so brightly I lamented forgetting my sunscreen in the flurry of last minute packing. I should know better – Greenland and Alaska have both painfully taught me how quickly the intense Arctic sun can sizzle my skin. In my defense, this is the spring transition, those first weeks of leap-frogging hours of daylight that catch you by surprise after the long dark winter. Suddenly the sun sets well past bedtime and twilight extends the magic hour even longer.
This extreme tilt of the Earth has set and reset and upset my biological clock. I went from a Wisconsin thaw to a sudden burst of Alaska sunlight, back to Wisconsin in the baby steps of spring, and once more to Alaska – all in the space of four weeks.
Sorry brain. You’ll figure it out eventually.
I love flying into Anchorage at night this time of the year. We took off from Minneapolis through the dazzling show of a nighttime supercell thunderstorm (safely just off to the north – what a show from above!), soared into the inky blackness, and chased the blue haze of twilight across the arc of the polar north. It’s amazing how vibrant this layer of bluish-green light is, setting off the curvature of the earth’s horizon. As we landed into Anchorage just past midnight, the deep red-brown twinge of sunset still outlined the mountains out the window.
Maybe this play of physics that bends the light and aurora borealis in such beautiful displays is why my grandfather titled one of his books of poems “God Has Been Northwards Always.”*
At least for this weekend, so is my heart.
*Note: My grandfather Oliver P. Everette was poet laureate of Alaska from 1965-67.