Ten challenges Southeast Alaskans face on a sunny day

  • By PEGGY MCKEE BARNHILL
  • Sunday, June 24, 2018 8:18am
  • Neighbors

A sunny summer day in Southeast Alaska poses many challenges. To name a few:

We don’t know what to wear. When I went to the grocery store last night without a jacket, I felt naked. What if I need the hat I have tucked into my jacket pocket? Where am I supposed to put my phone if I’m not wearing a vest? Won’t my legs get sunburned if I let them get exposed to the air?

We don’t have any summer clothes anyways. I have dozens of sweaters and coats for all occasions, but I have maybe one summer dress, and no shoes to wear with it. It’s hardly worth buying a pair of sandals for the five days in the summer that are both warm enough and dry enough to wear them. If you see Juneau women wearing fashions from 10 years ago when it comes to sandals, don’t judge. They’re just happy to finally have a chance to wear them at all.

We can’t stand the way other people dress. “You make me hot just looking at you.” Have you ever said that? It’s completely ridiculous — someone else’s coat can’t possibly make you hot. But we can’t help saying it. These comments are most often directed towards one’s own child. Kids are supposed to listen to their parents and do what they say, right? Why can’t they obey when it comes to wearing hoodies in the summer or gym shorts when it’s 20 degrees out in the winter? Don’t they know that they’re causing their parents intense discomfort?

We can’t sleep. Long summer days really do have a drawback — short summer nights. It’s hard to sleep in until 6 a.m. when the sun comes up at 3. It’s especially hard to convince your children that it’s bedtime when the sun hasn’t even thought about setting yet. There was that one warm summer night when the kids slept out in the tree house. They were up and running around the yard by 4 in the morning, in full daylight.

The sun hurts our eyes. Like vampires exposed to the ravages of sunlight, we shy away from the sun, exclaiming with tears in our eyes that we can’t see. This phenomenon is particularly severe in children, who literally cannot go outside to play on a sunny day for fear that the sun will hurt their eyes.

Bugs. Does it seem like as soon as that last bit of snow melts in the yard, the mosquitoes come out? Also the spiders, ants, beetles, redbugs, gnats, dragonflies, daddy longlegs … we do have our fair share of bugs here in Juneau! The worst is when you’re hiking on a trail, maybe laboring a bit so your mouth might be open, and you hit a swarm. Say no more.

We have to mow the lawn. Grass growing is a recreational activity in Juneau, one that poses certain challenges. Getting the grass to grow in the first place is the main, sometimes insurmountable challenge. Moss and pine needles combine to create a hostile environment that no amount of rain can overcome. But for the determined grass grower who succeeds where others have failed, a new challenge arises. Mowing. Unless you want to go rogue and let your grass grow long and free, you’ll have to mow sometime. Now’s your big chance, while the weather is dry. Otherwise you’ll have to do it in the rain, because there really is no such thing as, “too wet to mow.”

More bugs. Here’s another reason to eschew mowing altogether. The act of mowing disturbs the fragile ecosystem of the no-see-ums, and they protest violently. They will swarm the sweaty mower in their midst until you can actually see them, thick on your forearms, chomping away while you try in vain to brush them off. If you ever see a half-mowed lawn on your street, you’ll know that the no-se-ums won.

It’s too hot. Yes, 75 degrees inside is hot. Never mind that my mother sets her air conditioning to 78 degrees to cool herself down in the summertime in Florida. Seventy-five is hot to us.

Time is running out. Whenever we are blessed with a lovely, sunny day in Juneau, we know that our time is short. The solstice is nigh, and the days will start getting shorter again. The rain will return. They don’t call it a rainforest for nothing. So rise to the challenge and go outside to brave the heat, even if you have nothing to wear and the sun hurts your eyes. Just watch out for those bugs!


• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother and author who writes cozy mysteries under the pen name “Greta McKennan.” Her latest book, Historically Dead, is available at Hearthside Books. She likes to look at the bright side of life.


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