We have done it! We have survived -- no, DEFEATED another March. We persevered through the adversity of cold and snow to rise triumphant on the threshold of Alaska's fifth season, breakup. (The other four seasons are early winter, mid-winter, late winter and tourist.) All hail breakup! That harbinger of warm things to come, that bellwether of beautiful days, that period of roughly six weeks when the world around us is a little soft.
Breakup is both a joy, and a curse. The joy is found in the rising outdoor temperatures and resurgence of life all around. The curse is where the name came from: all things frozen -- that is to say, all things outside -- must thaw, and the ice encrusting them must break up. During that time, there is no such thing as "terra firma." There is, however plenty of terra gooey. From the ankle deep mud called a front yard to the mud pits commonly referred to as "side roads," there is plenty of goo to go around.
Breakup is also a season of high fashion. That is to say, high rubber boots are the fashion. Of course, just as with any other seasonal fashion, such as people who insist on wearing white between Labor Day and Memorial Day, there are those who scoff at fashion. Those people are easy to spot as they squish around in their Birkenstocks.
During breakup, there are two kinds of vehicles: those that desperately need a wash, and those that desperately need to be washed again. The former is every vehicle more than a few hundred yards outside a car wash. The latter are those vehicles pulling out of the car wash. The truly prudent car shopper in Alaska would seek out a vehicle painted a dull mud brown, with pre-rusted running boards for trim.
During breakup is when the true meaning behind the term "mud flaps" becomes apparent. Mud flaps don't stop any mud, they efficiently spread out the spray of mud-based road slime as the car, or truck, slithers down the road.
As bad as breakup can be, it is always anxiously anticipated, and a slow arrival is bound to bring much comment. This year is no different. Between the cooler than average temperatures and snowfall we've had for the past month and the rumblings and belching of our resident active volcano, there is more than just much comment. There is piteous whining.
"When's breakup going to start?"
"How can it break up when it's still froze up?"
"What's the deal with the sub-zero temperatures? I thought it was time to melt."
"I wish it would just get up to 50 and be done with it!"
(Just as an aside, the folks in North Dakota could fully explain the disadvantage to the last statement. Better to break up than wash out.)
Since breakup has been a regular topic of conversation since the first day of spring, more than two weeks ago, it has weighed heavily on my mind. The only way I've been able to cope with the anticipation of its arrival is to hum a merry little tune. There is no merrier batch of tunes than Christmas tunes, which I tend toward under emotional stress. We only hear them for roughly a month out of the year, which means a perfectly good melody is wasting away somewhere because it has been stuck with lyrics of limited use. However, pull out a Christmas melody to hum or whistle, and people look askance.
I've come up with a solution: lyrics that are seasonally correct to go with a happy tune that is not. What happier tune than "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas"? A catchy, short tune guaranteed to lighten your day and step. To make it more palatable for the season police, use the following lyrics. (If you need a little help with the tune, here's a Web site for a little karaoke action: http://washingtonmo.com/christmas/lyric/1032.htm)
"It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Breakup"
It's beginning to look a lot like breakup
All around the town.
Take a drive in the slush and then,
Go wash your car again.
With touchless wash it's still a loss and brown.
It's beginning to smell a lot like breakup;
Dog doo in ev'ry yard.
It's the ugliest thing to smell,
But the only way to tell
If it's still froze hard.
A pair of dry breakup boots and waterproof suit
Is the stuff of every dream.
With pets that don't balk but are willing to walk
It's the dumbest thing ever been seen
And once back home you'll never get the floor to look quite clean.
It's beginning to feel a lot like breakup
When you venture out.
There's a wind in the cloudy skies
Tearing up both your eyes
With nasty ash that drifted from Redoubt.
It's beginning to look a lot like Breakup
Soon our spring will come
And the thing that will tell for sure
We have finally endured
Is some summer fun.
OK, so it ain't Gershwin. But it's not exactly spring, either.
A.E. Poynor lives in Kenai.
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