"Let There Be Light"

by Susan Kraus (2010)

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It's after 10 p.m. and I'm watching the sunset from the back deck of the Snow Goose brewpub in downtown Anchorage. Pink and orange and cream form pastel layers. It looks fake, a wanna-be artist’s rendition of a sunset.
“It’s getting dark earlier,” I hear one of the young guys from the next table complain. I look over to identify the speaker: he has his chair balanced on two legs, face facing the sun, eyes closed, shirt open to the last rays.   “Almost fall,” he adds without opening his eyes. 
It’s mid-August.
In mid-June sunset was about 11 p.m. and sunrise just a few hours later. And then it didn’t get really dark. The light lingers here, for hours, so that even now I can still see the outline of the mountains from my window at 11 p.m.
Yet there was, just this afternoon, a breeze, the slightest chill, a whiff of fall.

My sense of time is distorted.  While only one hour earlier than California time, Alaska feels a world apart. It isn’t jet lag, but being in a place where there are so few hours of darkness. I feel charged, ready to start a project at the time I used to be yawning and heading for bed. At 10 p.m. it doesn’t feel too late to go for a walk, swim a few laps in the hotel pool, write a column. 

Alaskans cherish the light. Sun is cause for communal delight. When the sun is out, even if 11 p.m., the trail along the water is flush with walkers and bikes. If you want to go fishing, what difference does it make what the clock says? Why sleep when you could be outside gardening? The darkness will come soon enough. And when it gets dark, it really gets dark. December sunrise can be 10 a.m., sunset around the time the kids get out of school. People who work 8-5 will hardly see light for months.

“We’re like bears,” an Oklahoma transplant told me. “We’ll sleep next winter. Can’t waste this sunshine on sleep.” He came here over 30 years ago, for a visit. “I went back to Oklahoma but I couldn’t stop thinking about Alaska. Weather is crazy, winter is hard, but it’s all worth it.”  He gestured at the mountains.
“My friends all thought I was crazy,” he added. “You got to be a little nuts to love it.”

It’s easy to love Alaska in summer. I find myself looking at the classifieds, seeing how much it costs to get a place. But then I think about how I turn into a vegetable with an average Kansas winter. I become a poster-child for SAD. Then I imagine half that much light. It’s enough to make me pause mid-way through the fantasy.  But maybe I could be like those retired ‘snowbirds,’ the Midwesterners that head south to Arizona and Florida for the winter. I could be a reverse snowbird, heading to Alaska for summers.

It makes perfect sense. Everything feels possible.
Let there be light…. lots and lots of light.

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"I think we often know things in our gut way before the synapses connect in the head."