I made it in to work about five minutes early this morning, even though I left the house at my usual time. Why? Because it's -45 outside. My legs were getting quite chilly so I walked faster. Numb thighs are quite the inducement to get moving.
Actually, I'm fairly impressed with myself. I'm tired (had a night where I just couldn't get my brain to shut up and let me sleep last night) and there's lots of snow on the ground so I should have been moving slower than usual. Last week we had what a friend jokingly dubbed Snowpocalypse, getting at least a foot and a half of snow in about 24-48 hours. It was so bad that, for the first time since sometime in the 1970s, the Borough closed the schools for a snow day. They simply couldn't plow the roads fast enough. Of course, the U stayed open (if for no other reason, it was finals week) so I had to go to work. It was like a ghost town for my walk.
Despite the lack of cars, that walk should have been miserable. Blizzard conditions aren't usually my favorite, what with the poor visibility and the tromping through ankle-deep snow uphill. (It's worse than walking through sand!) I might have been a little upset, also, because I started my morning with one major and one minor disappointment. (The minor disappointment was that Shane woke up when I did, and as I was in the bathroom doing my morning stuff I heard the sounds of breakfast being made. I thought, "So sweet! He's making me breakfast!" Wrong. He was making himself a BLT. He didn't even make an extra piece of bacon for me.) I'd also slept funny on my right shoulder and it hurt to move it. So I was in a bad mood before I ever saw the snow. I told myself that I was getting in an excellent cardio workout first thing in the morning and that helped my mood.
Anyway, that was Wednesday. By Thursday the snow had become knee-deep. We didn't shovel our driveway so just leaving my house, getting to the sidewalk, was a bit of a workout. I decided that instead of taking the back, woodsy path to work I would walk up one of the more-traveled hills which had a better chance of being plowed. It wasn't knee-deep, but it was still deep snow. When I was grumping to myself about the snow, I realized that I was less likely to meet a moose on that more-traveled path, and that if I had met a moose on the other path I would have been in serious trouble. (Yeah, snow would slow both of us down, but it would slow 5 foot me down more than it would slow an 8 foot tall moose.)
Of course, that didn't stop me from walking home through the woods. How could I resist the lure of fresh, deep snow? And what a workout that is! It had stopped snowing by that time and walking downhill through knee-deep snow seemed like the best idea ever. So. Much. Fun. I felt like a kid again and I was tempted to throw myself down in the powder but I didn't. Walking through it was enough. (And I didn't meet any moose.)
When I walked home through the woods on Monday of this week, I did see moose tracks on the path. They were fairly fresh, fresh enough to make me nervous and to call out, making sure there wasn't still a moose there. I still get nervous walking back there, after what happened (or nearly happened) last winter. When it started getting dark in the mornings I had one day where I literally jumped at my own shadow when I saw it moving.
In those two days we went from far less than average snowfall for this time of year to almost average. It was crazy. The snow is now deeper than my dog is tall. On Friday we took her out to run in the deep snow (and for us to go sledding!) and that was ridiculously fun. She avoided the truly deep snow, unless we ran into it and called her. Then she'd swim and jump her way out to us. My little old lady dog was exhausted that night. I loved it. We did get some video of her in the snow, just for fun and to show family.
And it was warm last week. It got up into the +20s. Not exactly tropical temps, but warm enough that I wore my fleece over a t-shirt one day and that was all. No need for the usual ridiculous number of layers. It was glorious.
And now we're back to normal winter in Fairbanks temperatures. It's supposed to get down to the -50s later this week. What a challenge this place is, in the best possible way. I love that it takes creativity to meet the challenges Fairbanks (and Alaska in general) throw at me. I'll never conquer this place, but I can rise up and be equal to the task of living here. I can face it head-on and thrive under difficult conditions. So while others are groaning at the thought of -50, I'm secretly smiling to myself because I know that Fairbanks is just forcing me to push myself and my limits. It's making me be a better me. If I'm at my best, I'll be able to find the joy and fun in -50 as well as I did in a foot and a half of fresh snow.
I don't say this because I think I'm, as one of my brothers put it, "tough as nails". Every environment has difficulties and the trick is to find which one suits you. Blizzards? Hurricanes? Extreme heat? While I wilt in anything over 80 degrees, my real kryptonite is rain. I hate having it rain day in and day out. As much as I love my friends and family in the Pacific Northwest, I don't think I'll ever live there again because I hate the rain so much.
My point, really, is that I'm trying to find the joy in little things. Daily things. Even when I should, by most standards, be miserable. -50 emphasizes how lucky I am to have a warm apartment, warm clothes (many of which were given to me by loved ones), enough food, all those good things. The difficulties we encounter are there to show us just how good we really have it. I know I have a lot to be thankful for.
This has seemed to be a particularly tough year in many ways. Especially the autumn and now into the end of the year, so many sad things have happened. The shooting at Sandy Hill Elementary, the one in the mall in Oregon. Even here, we had someone commit suicide at my work. A friend and coworker kept mentioning how it could have been worse, the things he could have done. I've been trying really, really hard not to think about the fact that things that day could have been so much worse. It's not helpful to me to think about what might have been, what could have gone wrong.
Yes, there are lots of bad things which happen. Most of them, I don't have any control over. I could be upset by it all, get depressed. I choose not to. I'm choosing to find life and joy in the little things, to be happy with what I have while I have it. I'm aware that life is precious and fleeting, so I'm holding my loved ones a little bit closer and appreciating the time we have together that much more. In the face of sorrow, that's really all we can do, isn't it?