Tell Me Again November 19, 2009Posted by lizp4 in Uncategorized.
My Back Yard Last Winter
It’s been COLD here this last couple of weeks. The thermometers are regularly going below zero, and depending on where they are located, they are going down into the -20F range. We even set a record low temperature for the date yesterday. This means lots of heat usage. Where people in the south rely for months on their air conditioners to get them through steamy summers, the opposite holds true here. For instance, my high-efficiency furnace starts a new cycle approximately every hour. Between the gas and the electricity, my winter expenses are quite high. And we have been promised by Washington that our utilities are going to double this winter. I haven’t seen a $200 natural gas bill yet, but this will probably be the year it turns up in my mail box. Electricity is a little cheaper, but not because the politicians want it that way. Do the words, “Drill, Baby, Drill!” sound familiar to you?
When I first moved back to Alaska, my friends were astonished. Somehow, to them, moving from Minne-so-cold to Alaska didn’t make sense. Of course, their -40 plus winter temperatures and continual wind doesn’t cross their minds. I’ve heard it said before, and I will only repeat it because I’ve heard it from others, but there is something about Minnesota’s cold that makes it much harder to take than Alaska’s. Humidity? Wind? I don’t know, but I’ll take my chances in the Last Frontier, thank you. I was never so cold as I was in the years I spend in Minnesota — short of falling through the ice, and all that.
Temperatures here are expected to be low in the winter. Depending on the distance from open liquid water, it can range from Fairbanks’ dips down into the -60F range to the 40′s above in Wrangell and Ketchikan this time of year. I’ve been to Fairbanks in January when the thermometers read -63 F, and people went about their business as if it was 50 above. (the picture above is taken in Fairbanks, year unknown) They left their cars running all night, and they bundled up until they looked like bears, but they did it. The frost buildup around doors and on windows is something to see.
Here, we don’t get a lot of snow. We do get a lot of sunshine, though, believe it or not. It’s low, and not very warm, but it’s bright and cheerful, and helps make the winters feel like less of a burden. My little house has big windows that face south, so this time of year means lots of sun shining in. This is a good thing.
Seeing the sun for a few hours every day helps hold off the depression-state known as “Seasonal Affective Disorder.” We knew about this up here for years. We call it “Cabin Fever.” It means that light-deprived life forms become morose, irritable, suicidal, aggressive, and just generally not fun to be around. Unfortunately, one of the signs of depression is a desire to just stay in bed, which only makes matters worse. Being shut indoors for hours on end day after day leaves people frustrated and grouchy. Sitting by a bright window is a big help. One of our biggest guns is Vitamin D supplements. This can be a regular tablet, pill, or capsule, or it can be cod liver oil, but those of us who know about these things take it religiously, and escape the worst of the depression.
The Solstice is right around the corner. We learn to love December 21 up here. This is the low point in the sun’s position, and from this date forward, the days will lengthen. Having an increase in daylight hours is a cheering, encouraging thing for those of us whose Cabin Fever is getting the best of us. Our coldest days are usually in January and February, but we will experience them in the sunshine.
I have friends Outside who are shoveling out of early global warming drifts and chipping climate change off their windshileds every morning. Here, we don’t get enough moisture in the winter to cause much of that. What we do get takes the form of fog, which turns to hoarfrost on everything and turns it into a sugar-coated fairyland. It’s hard to be depressed by that. Another plus for living up here in the winter is that it keeps the rifraff out. It also keeps the bugs down. Tell me again that I’m nuts for moving back up here.