While February in Alaska isn't "desirable" by the standards of many, it is a month in which optimism is high for the author. (Jeff Lund / For Juneau Empire)

I Went To The Woods: Until March does arrive, it’s just you and your attitude

Until this week, I probably would have ranked February was one of my most optimistic months.

Part of being an Alaskan requires tolerance, selective observation, quasi-scientific data gathering or a bit of each. If the decision of residency came simply down to a matter of degrees Fahrenheit, Alaska would be the land of the most irrational folks in the United States. But comfort is relative. We, of course, know that while some might shake their heads at our cold, we shake our heads at their traffic and noise. There’s something really right about us, some deep-rooted optimism that allows us to stick it out, if not enjoy things here.

You can’t just put Alaska into a Venn diagram or make a list of the pros and cons. On some level, you just have to feel it. The U.S. News and World Report released its list of best places to live by attempting to plug things like “quality of life” and “desirability” into an equation. In 2019 Austin, Texas, earned the top spot despite not having fishing, hunting, hiking or an ocean. Boulder ranked No. 1 in 2020 (Anchorage was 107) and scored an 8.6 in desirability though the average commute time is 22.8 minutes, and it doesn’t have an ocean either. Some things you can’t put a number to, as rankings like that prove.

Until this week, I probably would have ranked February was one of my most optimistic months. It’s certainly not as fun as June, epic as July or August or as satisfying as September, but every time it comes around, it just feels good. Maybe it’s the fact that there is enough daylight to do something in the morning and in the afternoon.

My buddy and I were discussing the reputation of months at lunch Monday from our separate tables. He said October and February were the worst two months thanks to the weather. October is usually horrendous, but the hunting starts to get good so my attitude toward the month is not completely at the mercy of the weather. As for February, I was a little surprised. I feel that January is cold and dark and that February is the month that the weather takes a break to prepare for the grand finale of snowstorms in March. But since it is March, you don’t mind as much because the end of winter is near.

I thought I really liked February, but after some reflection, I decided I probably just liked that February came before March, more than I liked February itself.

My twenty Februaries in Alaska have taught me that it is the longest month, but with the fewest days, as if the shortness comes from cutting off two hours per day as we go, rather than two days at the end. My impatience, though rooted in optimism, makes February hang on forever. I am excited when it starts, but it just doesn’t seem to end.

March arrives by barge.

March is the package you track that gets stuck in Anchorage for three days, for no apparent reason.

Until March does arrive, it’s just you and your attitude. It’s almost here. But not really.

I will feel Every. Single. Day. Of February.

But I still like it.

These are the sort of feelings the sometimes defy logic and common sense. These are the things that keep people bouncing around to trendy new towns in the Lower 48 wondering how someone can stay in southeast Alaska with no more evidence than, “I dunno, I just like it.”

• Jeff Lund is a freelance writer based in Ketchikan. His podcast, “The Mediocre Alaskan,” is available on Spotify and Apple Music. He is, of course, on Instagram @alaskalund. “I Went To The Woods,” a reference to Henry David Thoreau, appears in the Empire twice a month.

More in News

This photo shows a multi-vehicle carport following an early morning fire. (Courtesy Photo / Capital City Fire/Rescue)
Firefighters extinguish early morning carport fire

The fire marshal will investigate.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, contracting with Coastal Helicopters, works to reduce avalanche risk on Thane Road by setting off avalanches in a controlled fashion on Feb. 5, 2021.(Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Thane Road to close Saturday morning for avalanche hazard reduction

Thane Road will be closed for two hours Saturday morning to allow… Continue reading

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which cause COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. Viruses are constantly mutating, with coronavirus variants circulating around the globe. (NIAID-RML)
COVID at a glance for Friday, March 5

The most recent state and local numbers.

Police Car
Police calls for Sunday, March 7, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which cause COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. Viruses are constantly mutating, with coronavirus variants circulating around the globe. (NIAID-RML)
COVID at a glance for Thursday, March 4

The most recent state and local numbers.

Police Car
Police calls for Thursday, March 5, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

This Sept. 2008 photo provided by the Center for Whale Research taken near Washington state’s San Juan Islands shows scientists looking for clues about the diet of the Pacific Northwest’s endangered orcas using a pool skimmer to collect the scales or other remains of salmon the whales had eaten. A long-term study published Wednesday, March 3, 2021, reaffirmed the importance of Chinook salmon to the whales even when they cruise the outer Pacific Coast, where the fish are harder to find. (Ken Balcomb / Center for Whale Research)
Study: Chinook salmon are key to Northwest orcas all year

That includes fish that spawn in California’s Sacramento River all the way to the Taku River.

Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., listens during the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on her nomination to be Interior secretary, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Some Republican senators labeled Haaland “radical” over her calls to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and address climate change, and said that could hurt rural America and major oil and gas-producing states. The label of Haaland as a “radical” by Republican lawmakers is getting pushback from Native Americans. (Jim Watson / Pool Photo)
Senate energy panel backs Haaland for interior secretary

Murkowski was the lone Republican to support Haaland.

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which cause COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. Viruses are constantly mutating, with coronavirus variants circulating around the globe. (NIAID-RML)
COVID at a glance for Wednesday, March 3

The most recent state and local numbers.

Most Read