The winter of 2000 won't soon be forgotten by Kenai Peninsula residents.
Snow and more snow, avalanches, dwindling groceries, damaged roofs, stranded motorists and an almost week-long search for a missing Tustumena 200 musher have combined to offer the stuff of adventure Alaska-style.
Fortunately, most of the tales spawned by this winter's weather have happy endings.
The most notable, of course, is that of Rod Boyce, the Two Rivers musher and city editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, who was found safe Friday morning after seemingly vanishing from the Tustumena 200 trail in a snowstorm very early last Sunday morning.
Like a breath of springtime, news that Boyce and his dogs were alive and well swept across the peninsula, lifting a load of worry heavier than this winter's snowfall from countless residents' shoulders.
There was other good news: Travelers stranded by avalanches for a week were able to make their way home. Food and other supplies found their way to places where they were needed. And the sun shone.
It was just the winter break peninsula residents needed.
While the sunshine didn't last and avalanches remain imminent, the reprieve may have been enough to recharge our batteries for the rest of the winter.
If not, consider for a moment the extraordinary heroes that have been born this winter. The numerous volunteer searchers for Boyce, of course, come to mind. Then, there's the other-behind-the scenes people helping with the search by answering phones or cooking meals or offering an encouraging word. And, Boyce himself, who serves as a good reminder to us all that one of the best antidotes to an emergency is a level head and patient spirit.
The search aside, there are all kinds of other heroes. For example, the people who have helped their neighbors during this long, snowy winter by shoveling driveways and clearing roofs. Or those people who have lent a hand to total strangers by digging out cars buried underneath snow or offering whatever help was needed without being asked.
There also are those people whose jobs, particularly during the last couple of weeks, put them in the running as heroes -- school bus drivers who have gotten everyone's children home safely, those who work for electrical utilities, those who have driven or flown in supplies. It may have all been in a day's work for them -- but the days certainly have been a little hairier than normal.
If thoughts of good deeds aren't enough to warm the rest of the winter's days, maybe thoughts of the sense of community that's come with the snow will do it. Life can be tough enough when the weather is good; it can be downright overwhelming when the weather is bad. The simplest of tasks can become a struggle in a few feet of snow. But peninsula residents need only to look around to realize they're not alone in their struggles. Everyone is having to cope with the same kinds of hassles. It's somehow reassuring to know we're all in this together.
The best silver lining in the cloud of winter may be the startling realization that humans don't control everything. Despite our best-laid plans and our "day timers" that schedule our every minute of every hour, there are just some things we can't direct or regulate. When things happen as they have in the past few weeks, it's good to remember that fuming and fussing only use valuable energy without accomplishing anything.
When Mother Nature interferes with our plans, maybe the best course of action is to follow Boyce's example and sit things out awhile.
Winter in Alaska used to be more mellow than it is today. Maybe the lesson of the winter of 2000 is there was a good reason things moved at a slower pace.
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