AS MUCH AS I love summer in Alaska - there's winter in Alaska, too. Summer is social, it's about hanging out with friends; winter is more of an introspective time, something about the cold air and clear skies makes me want to just sit in my hot tub and think out my "problems" by myself. There's no other instance when I feel smaller than when looking up at the stars, seeing a satellite drift by. It makes me remember the quote: "There are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on the beach." Talk about a drop in the ocean!
Along with the stars, the air here just has a feel I haven't noticed anywhere else in the world - when it's cold here, the air gets incredibly dry. While this is a bit of a bummer when my nostrils froze a few weeks ago and it plays havoc with any musical instrument affected by humidity, it's so much nicer than anywhere else in the lower 48, where winter is synonymous with dark, muggy weather, and plenty of rain. Yes, I know that we in the Southcentral just got hit with the worst Chinook winds in years, but I see that as a way to cancel out the first two weeks of our winter that were below zero.
The weather - and the overall feel of Alaskan winter - makes me realize one more thing: we live in one of the few places on Earth where you can drive or hike for an hour and get to a place where you will see no other human beings.
It's something for me to remember when I'm choosing a college because I don't think I'll be able to handle a great metropolitan mass like New York City or Southern California; even a city of a few million people will feel massive to me. I think Alaskans have an advantage over those city dwellers who have grown up on the 35th floor of an apartment building. Life seems to move faster in the city, and people don't have as many chances to stop and look at the stars. In fact, if they live in a city, they won't be able to see any stars. I can't even imagine how it would be like to grow up without having wide open spaces all around me, how it would've changed my outlook on life. All I know is that it's nice to take a deep breath of air that stings my throat and look up to greet the stars that I haven't seen since last winter.