Ode to fastest season ever

Posted: Sunday, August 17, 2003

Did you miss it?

It's faster than a tourist will stop traffic upon seeing a moose, faster than the curses come out of the mouths of the locals driving behind that tourist and faster than any publicity-hungry wacko in California will sign up to run for governor.

Is it Superman, you ask? No it's summer in Alaska, and it is gone for another year.

A famous poet once described the transition from summer to fall by saying:

As imperceptibly as grief

The summer lapsed away,

Too imperceptible, at last,

To seem like perfidy.

There are several reasons why this poem is stupid. The main one is I could never remember Emily Dickinson is spelled "s-o-n" instead of "s-e-n" and I lost points for that on every high school and college English test I ever took.

Another is Dickinse er son's use of the word "perfidy," which is a fine example of a common trick in which snooty poets use obscure words instead of plain English whenever they can to make their poetry sound like it is bursting at the seams with mystical depth and meaningfulness. This causes the reader, in this case the lowly column writer, to get up from my desk and walk all the way across the office to get the big dictionary so I can pretend like I knew what "perfidy" meant in the first place.

I don't mean to sound whinny here, but it's a really big dictionary, full of obscenely obscure words like "quinquagenary," "caprimulgiformes " and "unabridged" which, incidentally, means "Heavier than a sumo wrestler soaked in concrete." I could flip a groin or slip a hammie or do something else the sports reporters are always talking about by lifting that thing.

The other reason this poem is stupid is that the author obviously never spent time in Alaska. Describing the passage of an Alaska summer into fall as "imperceptible" would be like describing "Gigli" (the Ben Affleck-Jennifer Lopez movie) as a serious contender for an Oscar.

You can actually document when the change takes place. This year it was in the middle of the night Aug. 2, when the clouds and rain rolled in to put an end to the sunny, 80-degree day.

This has got to be one of the only places on the planet where you can actually miss an entire season by stopping to tie your shoe.

And now that it has come and gone, I find myself going through summer withdrawal pains, although I didn't get out and live summer to the fullest to begin with.

That begs an interesting question if you didn't really experience something in the first place, can you go through withdrawals from it? If so, does that mean I could be going through a vicious episode of crack cocaine withdrawal right now? Hmmm.

This is not to say that I didn't do any summer activities. I biked, camped, picked berries, mowed a lawn, almost succeeded at not killing my flowers, got spooked by wildlife (bears, two wolves, moose, porcupines, a wolverine, spruce hens and all manner of tiny birds hiding in bushes) and tripped over roots and rocks on many of the hiking trails in Southcentral.

Yet even though I did those things, I don't really feel like I fully experienced summer. I'm lacking the sense of fulfillment that, in my mind, I darn well deserve after hauling my out-of-shape arse up trails with 3,000-foot elevation gains.

I think the problem is that I don't have the right mindset when I do outdoorsy activities. I don't have that poetic inner monologue in which I'm constantly meditating on the grandeur around me and trying to come up with obscure words to describe how pretty and majestic stuff is.

Instead, my thought process tends to be more like this:

"Hmmm, I wonder what that is in my shoe? Could be a rock. Might be a piece of stick, though. It's hard like a rock, yet there's a pointy edge that is cutting into my foot."

Yes, I actually do go through this thought process for at least a few steps before stopping to take the stupid shoe off and removing the object. I may have graduated from college and all, but that doesn't mean I posses the requisite amount of common sense.

"Do porcupines have to be careful when they sit or lie down?" If I have keys or a pen in a pocket and sit on them I'm about ready to cry. So how do the mobile pincushions handle it?

"Why is it that out of all the creatures that are capable of flight, the fly actually gets the name 'fly'?" Why not birds or moths or even mosquitoes? "Fly" is such a noble, descriptive word for a capability that humans have envied since the first prehistoric man tried to impress a prehistoric woman by jumping off something really tall when she walked by. So why did humans give the name to an annoying, creepy little insect that has as its highest goal of existence finding a gigantic pile of poop?

I also wonder if birds are unhappy about how the name thing worked out. The word "fly" even sounds graceful and noble. "Bird," on the other hand, sounds like something that is emitted by men in bars after chugging a can of Miller Light.

I am convinced that true outdoorsy people think lofty, noble thoughts while out in the wilderness. I would be embarrassed if one of these people were to suddenly ask me what I was thinking about while I was out on a trail. Thankfully, this will never happen because I usually go hiking with guys, and you will sooner hear the words "Jennifer Lopez is a fat, ugly cow" come out of a man's mouth than you will "so what are you thinking about?"

I have decided that I would have a much more pleasant and fulfilling experience in the great outdoors if I could improve my inner monologue.

Maybe if I tried to compose overly dramatic, sappy poetry describing the beauty around me, I would feel more fulfilled after spending a summer day in the wilderness. Here goes:

There I stand, so tall, tall, tall

Atop the highest peak, I can see it all

A height so staggering, it seems like perfidy

I feel so strong, so brave, so free

So tall, so tall, so tall

Gee I hope that I don't fall.

On second thought, maybe I'll just start taking the rocks out of my shoes a little sooner.

Jenny Neyman is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.

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