Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Alaskan Summer

I don't usually whine or complain too much on my blog. At least I try to balance the negative with the positive, infusing a bit of humor to keep my faithful readers (all 5 of them) reading.
But I have had it with this weather! It's been foggy and rainy for 3 weeks! I have seen the sun for about 6 hours in the past week: 2 hours on Tuesday, 1 hour on Wednesday, 1 hour on Thursday, and 2 hours on Saturday. I'm sorry, but 6 hours a week is not enough to keep a girl from Vietnam/California going. Granted, the sun is shining on other parts of Alaska, like Fairbanks. But half the time they have so many forest fires that they can't even go outside on account of the smoke! And besides, it hardly makes up for their winters of up to -50 below.

On a more positive note, we went pick blueberries on Saturday at our friends Lyn and Darwyn's house on Saturday. I have lived here for 11 years and have never been invited to pick blueberries before. When Matt was a kid, you could go out and pick blueberries just about anywhere. Now so much of the land is developed or private property that blueberries have become a carefully guarded commodity. People who know where to get blueberries are very vague about their secret blueberry patches. If you ask them where they pick, you get answers like "across the bay" or "Diamond Ridge".

My mom and I picked about 14 cups of blueberries and our friends gave us about 4 more cups. Alaskan blueberries are smaller and more tart than Oregon and other blueberries in the lower 48. But I hear they are the highest in antioxidants. I hope they contain some kind of natural antidepressant because I am going to need it to get through this winter.

Next week I am taking Maya to California for my brother's wedding. Matt and the boys are going to Pendleton, OR to visit Matt's dad. Maya has been asking me several times per day if we can go to California yet. I keep telling her, No, not yet. She has her suitcase packed already. So do the boys. It shouldn't take me long to pack either. I'll just dump my bin of "summer clothes" into a suitcase. I have long since realized that summer clothes in Homer means 3/4 length sleeves and capri pants. I think I have worn shorts and a tank top twice this summer, and it was probably in the house. Even on a sunny day I have to pull weeds in a long sleeve Tshirt and jeans so the mosquitoes, flies and noseums don't eat me up. Noseums are bugs that leave bites like mosquito bites only smaller and twice as itchy, and they last up to 3 weeks instead of 3 days!

While I was picking blueberries, Riley and Chris were riding around on 4-wheelers. It's a special treat for them because we don't own any 4-wheelers and wouldn't have anywhere to ride them on our property even if we did. For years now the boys have been begging us for 4-wheelers and snow machines (snowmobiles in America). Now they are begging for guns. Most men in Alaska hunt and fish. That's why they live here. So the boys want to be like all their friends. Unfortunately, they got us for parents. Matt has been way too busy in the past 10 years with all his responsibilities as a family physician, husband, father, son, and brother to even think about going hunting. He hardly gets to go fishing.

I am morally and philosophically opposed to guns. Living in Alaska I realize that many families subsist on fish and wild game since food is so expensive here. So if Matt wants to take the boys hunting some day, that's okay with me. But I don't want to buy them toy guns. Instead I buy them swords and bows and arrows. Matt does not see the difference. To me, swords, bows and arrows are more noble than guns. You have to look your opponent in the eye and you stand equal chance of being killed. Swords, bows and arrows hark back to more chivalrous times; knights in shining armor. They lend themselves to the imagination, battling dragons and other mythical beasts. On the other hand, guns can kill so many living beings from a distance. Guns even kill loved ones up close, on accident. Children who play with guns sometimes cannot tell the difference between a real and a toy gun. That's why even many NRA card carrying hunters are opposed to toy guns. For me, guns symbolized so much death and suffering, I don't want to have toy replicas around my house.

Why am I blogging about this? Because I spend so much of my time explaining to the boys why I won't buy them toy guns on a daily basis. When they are not begging for 4-wheelers and snow machines, they are begging for air soft guns. Air soft guns are the latest craze among boys from 5 to 15. They come in every model from a little Colt .22 to an AK47. They shoot tiny soft plastic balls that can still hurt at close range. Responsible parents make their kids where helmets and goggles while shooting each other.

I know I would be dealing with this anywhere I lived, but I happen to live in one of the biggest hunting, gun slinging states in the Union. Many of their friends already have a real gun or rifle! Sometimes I just want to move away from all of this. But occasionally I am tempted to surrender myself to the inevitable. Move us to the outskirts of town on a piece of property where they can ride motor vehicles all day long (Of course they would have to work and save and buy their own motorized toys!) Everyone we know who lives along Old Sterling Highway has their own lake. I can't believe I'm willing to buy swamp land. But a lake means they can play hockey all day long in the winter time and paddle around on kayaks in the summer time, catch frogs, and I can pick berries!

I also have this fantasy of building a smaller, "greener" house. Use solar panels and windmills for energy. Raising my own fruits and vegetables in a big green house, harvesting fish from the sea and let the boys bring home an occasional moose. There are many, many people in Alaska still living this subsistence lifestyle. One of my friends has chickens, turkeys and goats! Another one has alpacas! And still another one makes her own cheese!

So that's where I'm at. Do I move back to civilization or farther away from town? Do I want to exchange dirt roads and gravel driveways for paved roads and sidewalks? Am I willing to trade in moose, porcupines, pheasants and bears in my yard for affordable groceries and Ethnic diversity? No matter where we live, there will be good things and bad things. But it sure is tempting to move somewhere with more sunshine!

Here's the view from deck every morning the past 3 weeks.

The fog just keeps rolling in, clearing for maybe an hour here and there.

Here's a picture to cheer you up. Maya and Sarah's dog, Lilly