People often ask me what life is like in Alaska. Short answer: pretty much the same as the Lower 48, only no Trader Joe’s. Also, there’s a better chance of getting pooped on by an eagle.
But when I think about it—and I mean sober up and actually think—we really do lead a unique existence. And mine is an especially Alaskan life.
I always go to bed at 10 p.m. and wake up at 6 a.m., no matter the season. November through February, I definitely don’t keep hitting snooze until what passes for “dawn” finally breaks; I definitely don’t crawl right back under the covers the moment “daylight” recedes again two hours later. Likewise, May through August, I never stay up well past midnight puttering around for no good reason, and I’m hardly ever awakened by blazing sun three hours later. But even if I am, I always return to sleep immediately, with zero anxiety about all the hiking, cycling, fishing, camping, boating, lawn mowing, wood chopping, deck staining and/or a dozen other home improvement projects I know I should be—but blatantly am not—doing with my summer.
[Slack Tide: A flashback to the five stages of winter grief]
As an eye-opener, I practice yoga first thing every morning—as opposed to downing two pots of coffee and a fifth of Carolan’s—free from the temptations of email, Apple News and social media. Who needs screens when I can behold the majesty of my surroundings?
Then I run 20 miles straight up a mountain, rain or shine, although, obviously, I prefer rain, especially sideways. After that, I eat a healthy breakfast, either a smoothie featuring berries I picked myself—and absolutely didn’t buy at Costco eggs from my own chicken coop because I didn’t decide raising hens in the sub-Arctic was a ridiculous boondoggle before “accidentally” leaving the bear-proof fence open. Wait, I almost forgot! My smoothies always have rhubarb. Oh, how I adore rhubarb; I don’t just pretend to like it on Instagram posts.
After my daily (not weekly) shower, I put on fresh, clean clothes, as opposed to the same frayed hoodie and greasy Carhartts I’ve been wearing since the Palin administration. In fact, I take pride in my appearance. I certainly haven’t gained 20 pounds of halibut nachos weight or grown a crazy guy beard. My skin exudes a healthy glow, as opposed to a cadaverous vitamin D deficiency. I wouldn’t dream of wearing fish blood-spattered Xtra Tuffs to a wedding.
Then it’s time to get to work. I always show up bright and early, never hung-over, and make full use of every minute (no staring out the window at nothing in particular for me!). I don’t fritter away my mornings with bathroom breaks and latte runs and I never disappear without explanation after lunch—which, again, invariably involves rhubarb. Nor do I skip work entirely when salmon are running or snow is falling. Like everyone else, I came to Alaska to advance my career.
Now, even a type A workaholic like me enjoys Alaska’s many recreational opportunities. I keep all my gear in tip-top condition, stowed neatly in clearly marked bins. Indeed, my
garage is a paragon of organization, and not a dumping ground for mismatched gloves, splintered ski poles, broken sleds, moldy tents, quarter-full coffee mugs, thrashed snow shoes and all manner of household hazardous waste. My kayak doesn’t have a gaping hole; my mountain bike hasn’t been hanging from the rafters for nearly a decade, ridden soft and put away dry. I know precisely where to find all my fishing tackle—and it’s totally not rusted. My chainsaw isn’t leaking black goo, either.
Evenings in the Great Land are especially magical. The children frolic outside, enjoying the wonders of nature—they never, ever whine about being bored or beg for an Xbox—while my wife and I unwind by running another 20 miles straight up a mountain (again, preferably in sideways rain).
Of course, we always sit down together to dine as a family—on a spotless table, uncluttered by more broken gear several days’ worth of soiled dishes—usually self-caught Alaskan seafood or wild game. Microwaved hot dogs crammed down standing over the sink? Absolutely not! And for dessert, you guessed it: more rhubarb. Nobody complains, nobody fights and nobody hides out in the back bedroom washing down Vicodin with Crown Royal.
Anyway, that’s what my life is like up here in Alaska. It’s all about living to the fullest and taking advantage of every opportunity the Great Land has to offer—or at least creating that illusion on Facebook.
• Geoff Kirsch is an award-winning Juneau-based writer and humorist. “Slack Tide” appears twice monthly in Neighbors.