This week our prompt is supposed to be “It was the summer of…” but I have already written one of those about The Summer from Hell which you can read at https://shermancityhall.com/2015/11/20/the-hardship-that-i-am-most-thankful-for/.
I have lived for sixty summers…to most people, summer is a wonderful time of freedom, long warm nights and all the things we can’t do during a school year or a work day….but then, in the summer of my fourth year, we moved to Alaska and summer took on a whole new meaning, one that continues to inform, fulfill and define me even into this, my sixtieth year of life.
I have lived in four states, three of them in the Lower 48: Missouri, where I was born and where we lived until I was four…then we lived in Alaska full-time from the summer of my fourth year until I was eighteen and graduated from high school.
Then we moved to San Diego, California, where summer is perpetual and Christmas means rain and flipflops and palm trees. Summer was days spent at the beach because it was always at least 15 degrees cooler than it was in Spring Valley…summers also meant living in a swimming pool if you couldn’t afford the gas it took to make it as far as Shelter Island.
I moved back to Alaska in the summer of my eighteenth year, with my worldly goods and almost completely broke…I had $300 to my name and no prospects to speak of…. but it was summer and I was home.
In the early 1980s, I lived in Wisconsin for three months (spring and summer) …but summer in Wisconsin, while nice and all, is NOT summer in Alaska. However, this was the first time in my life that I recall experiencing a real spring. Alaska has three seasons: winter, summer and fall/freezeup. Alaskan spring is short (to the point of almost being nonexistent) and smelly, so we don’t even count it as a real season.
Summer in Alaska? Oh. My. WORD. Summer in Alaska is glorious. Glorious. GLORIOUS. To quote from a favorite book of mine:
… you sit and look because [summer in Alaska] hurts you down in your chest and you can’t go on. The mountain peaks are [green], and the sky is so blue it’s almost purple, and there’s endless distance of mountain ranges around you and those miles of [green slopes and] flowers below, and you want to burst into tears. You’re ashamed of yourself, and then you turn…around to go on about your business…and you hear [someone] say ‘God Almighty!’ and by the way [they say] it you know [they’re] not swearing.
Gwen Bristow, Jubilee Trail
Gwen Bristow was writing about how the character John Ives felt about California, but it has always seemed to me that this could be applied to an Alaskan summer as well. Our summers are condensed into three short months and life bursts forth even before the frost is completely out of the ground or the snow has all melted away. There can be ice still choking the Susitna and Tanana Rivers and snowdrops are pushing their way through the snow crystals still remaining…the grass starts growing and the willows pop forth with their buds and it’s LIFE in all of its glory. Then the days start getting longer and longer and longer until it’s June 21 (summer solstice) and it’s 24-hour daylight. The long days continue up until the end of August and then you know by the decreasing temperatures and increasing darkness that old bastard Winter is around the corner and the dreaded S word is almost upon you…
We save up summer like a battery draws from solar panels the means to continue its life and power the household…like squirrels, we pack away those moments of sunshine and flowers and warm-to-hot days that give us a reason to live when it’s January and there is only four hours of semi-daylight and the temperatures dip to -20 or worse…summer keeps me going. Summer keeps me alive. Summer is Life.
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post, brought to you by the lovely Kristi Rieger Campbell of Finding Ninee (https://findingninee.com/summertime-change-grief-and-a-hero-name-tag/) and her partner in crime, Kenya G. Johnson of Sporadically Yours (https://www.kenyagjohnson.com/blog/2018/8/2/summer-1988).