What better way to start a post with lots of references to living in Alaska than a photo of my village? In the foreground is the lagoon, what everyone refers to as the river despite the fact that it isnt a river until roughly 40 miles to the left. The background shows the ice blanket over the ocean in a way that I hadn’t been able to capture. That line between the darker and then bright white snow is really the edge of the 30′ dune that separates town from the Bering. This wonderful photo was taken by a fellow community member on his way back home. An excellent shot all around. My house? Find the purple house (where the photographer lives) and move right. Its the tan one with the brown roof behind the red one and to the immediate left of the green roof.
On to my rant…
When I was a child, I used to love DST. The idea of getting to sleep for an extra hour in the fall was awesome and the annoyance of getting up an hour early in the spring was totally forgotten after a few days. The only thing that suffered was church if we had forgotten to change one clock or, when I was in college, needing to spend an extra hour awake as an RA doing rounds. Since I’ve moved to Alaska, this has all changed.
In the summer, sunrise at 4:15am, setting at 11:45; 19.5 hours of daylight on the equinox. In winter, rise around 10:15, set around 3:45; 5.5 hours. In summer, this does not take into account the lightening of the sky at 3am nor the fact that it isn’t truly dark until after 1am. In winter, the rise rarely brings brightness and once the sun sets, it takes all the light with it. There is no twilight in the winter foiled perfectly with the seemingly endless twilight of summer nights. All of this, I can handle.
It takes me a while to get over not wanting to sleep when it gets dark and mid-winter, I am OK with drawing the curtains at 5 and not getting ready for bed. We shant mention that at least one day a week I do just that. Its a struggle to find things to keep busy when every cell in my being is calling out for bed just because its dark out. Hibernation is a strong urge and I generally envy the bears. In the summer, I relish the long afternoons even though I solidly curse the setting sun directly in my bedroom window. Because of the set of my house I get direct sun on one side in the morning and the other gets the full blast in the evening so no matter what room I sleep in there is an early wake-up call or a sirens call for the evening. There are more than a few nights in the summer when I find myself puttering about the house in the lazy sunlight and final dark and then realising in horror that its really 1:30am and that its no wonder I’m so tired only to wake up 2 hours later with the creeping daylight and early bird songs thinking, “Ok, its light outside, the birdies are singing and I need to get up”. At the time this always seems like a sane and practical thought but as the day progresses, reality swats me upside the head and by the afternoon, I am dead on my feet. I take a nap and then do it all over again. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.
What gets to me is the TIME change. Not the sunrise or set, the time. Small planes do not fly in the dark nor will they land on unlit runways. It doesnt matter what TIME it is, just the level of daylight. Fishing centers around the desired of the fish or the tides. For trolling in Southeast, salmon won’t bite a hook that they can’t see, no matter what time the clock says. Here in Nelson Lagoon, an entirely net fishing enterprise, catching fish depends entirely on the tides. It doesn’t matter if high water is at 6am or 6pm, noon or midnight, 2pm or 2am…if you want the fish, you have to set your net catch them then. If you are fishing, you work until sunset or tide turn. Period. Clocks don’t matter. Time is a foreign concept.
The only places and people who are ruled by actual clocks are the teachers and students in school, post mistress in the PO and myself in the clinic. Not that it really matters for the latter two though. Most people take full advantage of the lack of sun in winter and hole up at home to sleep and relax, knowing full well that schedules will be erratic and skewed and sleep will be scarce once we have more daylight. Rarely do I see any patients in the clinic before 1pm in the winter. Heck, its rare to see anyone on the road before noon either! The idea of working hard in the daylight is so ingrained that school gets out by the 2nd Friday in May so that youth can work with their parents to get things ready for fishing and school doesn’t resume until the Monday after Labor day so that the same youth can finish working out the season.
I am an early bird by nature. I love waking up with the sun and going to bed when it does, no matter what the clock says. For me, the hardest part of winter is not the cold but the lack of morning sun to rise with. As the winter progresses into spring, I love the slow change of pitch black mornings into greying dawn and finally into shards of daylight that kiss my cheeks as I go to work. And then damn DST comes along, snatches it out of my grasp and shoves me back into morning darkness. Its a cruel joke that messes with my internal clock so much that I am forced to use an alarm clock for weeks so that I can wake up in time for work. Meantime, I am thrust into late evening light that interrupts my circadian rhythm, sense of balance and causes shock every time I see the unexpectedly late hour on the clock. It’s just not fair and it always takes me a few weeks to get back to normal.
Well, as “Normal” as I ever am 🙂