Friday, December 3, 2010
We're not in Alaska anymore
Yesterday afternoon, I walked home around 2:30. The sun had already begun the drop to the horizon. The low-angle light had the ineffectual pinkish quality that I associate with mid-Winter. My brain insisted that the cloudless sky and the thin sunshine meant that the temperature ought to be somewhere around zero. Even though I was only wearing a sweater and a vest, and did not feel in danger of losing body parts.
I checked the thermometer when I got to Chez Sarah and the instrument insisted that it was forty degrees in the sunshine. My eyes and brain insisted that they were Alaskan and, as such, knew better.
The picture above is not Seattle, that's the view from my parent's house a couple of days ago. My mom took it. The temperature in the picture is ten below. It's that quality of light that tells me that I need to go grab my warmest clothes. My bones knows that clear days are cold days.
Even when they aren't. Even when I spend the day hauling around coats I don't need. During the recent snow storm and cold snap, I spent a lot of time fighting with that instinct. I didn't pack my heavy parkas or snow boots. I didn't even need them. But on a dark night with the wind blowing, even though I knew the wind chill was only fifteen, I could not bring myself to sanguinely go to the grocery store. Too many English classes hashing over Jack London's "To Build a Fire."
Teachers would ask, "What is the conflict in the story?"
Alaskan kids always came back to not "man vs. nature" but "man vs. stupid." Always pack a hat and gloves. Always prepare for the worst. Don't leave shelter when the weather's marginal and you don't have gear.
I went to the grocery store anyway. I did not fall through the ice in a river. I didn't attempt to build a fire under a spruce tree and have the warming spruce dump it's load of snow on the embers. I came back. It was fine.
The next morning a couple of kids were skating on the reflecting pool in Cal Anderson Park. That at least was exactly like home.