Winter reflections

Alaska's cold, dark season balances frantic summer pace

Posted: Sunday, February 18, 2001

Nothing moves more swiftly than the plunge into an Alaska winter. Eternal sunshine and joys of summer activities quickly fade. It sounds bleak. Yet, as the seasons scrape the bottom of darkness, and the frenetic pace of summer is but a shadow in our memories, and the harvest of land and sea rests behind us, look for those treasures visible only in the winter.

Just as the ground rests beneath the snow, we, too, rest from ceaseless summer outdoor activities. Now, bright sunlit evenings are traded for cozy nights before the fire with family or friends. We can read, pray, study and expand our interior horizons without feeling guilty. Darkness gives us these gifts.

Yet, winter is not altogether without light.

The snow purifies and reflects back light that is offered. When you look out from the warmth inside a home or bundle up and trudge outdoors, see how snow puts brightness into the background of our lives. Notice how it creates a canvas of sparkling crystals and brings a soft contrast to the otherwise darkened spruce trees. Snow is a treasure.

Winter sub-zero cold is bitter. With it, however, comes an appreciation for the basics.

Who has not experienced waking up to the annoyance of frozen pipes, a furnace not equal to the task or an unresponsive vehicle? Who has driven 40 miles to town with a car heater barely strong enough to keep frost off the windshield?

For these excursions one cannot be nonchalant as in summer, but must be laden in snowpants, cap, warm mittens. Thus, I feel a small joy each time the car starts and each morning when the water flows easily through my bathroom pipes.

I rejoice in a trusty furnace, a well-insulated house and a wood stove that never tires of its duties. I am grateful for a full freezer, due to hard work and the bounty of the earth. Thankfulness fills my soul on a frozen winter day.

My appreciation swells beyond the grandeur of snow and the security of living conveniences to the moments of exquisite color. In winter, the blue sky appears more intense. The palate of pink and purple briefly edging the horizon is unrivaled during the sub-zero temperatures. This cannot be traded for that of a clear summer day.

Alaska is unique with her flux of summer and winter lifestyles. The frantic pace of summer balances with the frozen schedules of winter.

In God's wisdom, he not only provided rest for this land, but for each of us as well. Winter offers us the gift of reflection.

Karen Isaak Encelewski is a farmer at heart. Each short Alaska summer she spends hours digging in the dirt, arranging and planting flowers. She also cherishes family history and currently is working on documenting, in word and picture, her heritage.

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