Happy New Year!
Here we are, eight days into the New Year. We’re slowly gaining daylight; the political spitting contest is slowing down, or heating up, depending on your perspective; and the Tusty 200 sled-dog race is on again! All in all, 2017 looks like it could be a good year. Or at least a different year from the past one.
Just about everyone I know has commented on what a bum year 2016 was, and looking back on it, I have to agree in theory, although personally, it was no better or worse than most other times. And I experienced an insight of sorts that has changed my perspective a little.
Our daughter and son-in-law made a brief visit in December. He wanted some pictures of the aurora and where better than Fairbanks? They flew in and No. 1 son (a.k.a. Big Brother) picked them up and drove them to Chena Hot Springs for a photo session.
Although our son-in-law has visited Alaska before, albeit in the summer, he has lived in Hawaii most of his life, and the years he wasn’t in Hawaii he was in Florida or Southern California. His concept of winter is having to put on a hoodie to walk to the store so Fairbanks in mid-December was completely out of his realm of reality. Luckily, our daughter spent many years in the Interior, so knew what to expect, but how do you explain to a Sun Sprite that his eyelashes are going to freeze and he might want to put on socks? By the time they arrived on the Kenai for a quick hello, S-I-L (that’s ‘son-in-law’ for future reference) was feeling like a sourdough for having weathered the road trip while at the same time experiencing more than a little culture shock
We all celebrate Alaska’s uniqueness when speaking to our friends and family Outside, but we’ve learned to live with the darkness or the constant daylight. The extreme cold only invigorates us (well, it used to; now it encourages me to read a little more). We might comment on an especially glorious alpenglow, or a brilliantly sunny day, but generally, it’s old news. We expect it and seldom notice the beauty and uniqueness of our homeland. I guess that is why we have visitors from the south: to remind us how really blessed we are.
S-I-L, being a photographer, sees things a little differently. Of course his first comment was about how dark it was. They arrived during the overcast, foggy days just before Solstice: our darkest time. But by mid-day, and a trip to Soldotna with bright sunny skies, he marveled at the hoarfrost on the trees and fences (apparently, even Lower 49 kids read Jack London and Robert Service) and watched for a chance to catch Redoubt sparkling in the sun. Didn’t happen, but that gives him an excuse to return.
So I took another look. And he was right. It was absolutely beautiful out there. Cold and crisp, frost enhanced the trees and made the cyclone fence around the community garden in Kenai seem almost impenetrable. Even in the dark, the twinkle lights around town elevated everyone’s feelings of the season. A real winter wonderland, to coin a phrase. And it occurred to me that I had been seeing it every day, but taking it for granted, because it’s so familiar.
So back to 2017. What’s the old saying: Familiarity breeds contempt. I think that is what is coloring everyone’s concept of the coming year. We are so used to complaining about the government that we forget we have fought hard for that right, and if we fight against each other we are in danger of losing sight of the need for vigilance against any entity that would use our perceived differences to foment rebellion.
Half the country is so busy being “offended” because they didn’t get their way they don’t remember that sometimes that’s how it works and the other half is so busy saying “nyah-nayh-nyah” they don’t remember that what goes around comes around. Using my new won insight, I think we all need to remember that (hopefully) we all want the best for our country, regardless of the philosophy governing it. We’ve survived ultra-conservatives and super-liberals throughout our history. That’s what we do best: go with the flow. Acting like a rebellious teenager and pouting for the next several years only proves to the other side that they, in fact, had it right and the liberals are a bunch of big babies. But, smugly sitting back and letting the powers that be run amok without any oversight will only prove to that “other side” conservatives have no place running the government.
If we remember we’re all in this together, 2017 could be a year to remember.
Virginia Walters lives in Kenai. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.