What is it about Alaskans when the light returns? Or is it just me? Suddenly I see dust where all winter I saw none. I see piles of clutter where once I just saw my closet. I reach for my credit card almost reflexively as I run to Wal-Mart’s to buy every size and shape of plastic stacking box they sell.
My sister thinks I’m just crazy, especially since we both come from a mother who once scrubbed the spots out of the linoleum in front of her stove and claimed that it was the linoleum that was defective. She went on pills shortly after that episode. We were afraid if she didn’t, my father’s liver spots didn’t stand a chance.
Despite the fact that I have spent the week fighting the worse cold anyone in this whole world’s history ever got, I managed to make three trips back to the store to buy more plastic containers. While loopy on cold medication, I emptied my entire office of everything moveable and some things that may not have been. Every time I felt tired, or looked around my living room in horror at the mounds of junk I’d deposited there, the sun would peak through the clouds and I’d get another burst of energy.
I imagine this is what is usually called spring fever. It just seems that in Alaska it starts a little earlier than elsewhere. At least it does for me.
I attribute this to the lack of sunlight all winter. And believe me, that sad little ball of dim light that occasionally appears in the sky in November, December and January is nothing but a pathetic facsimile of the real thing and adds nothing noteworthy to our lives.
But come February, the sun suddenly seems real again. It gets high enough in the sky to actually fill my living room with light. I can turn the gro lights off that keep my plants and birds going through the dark season. And I can see dust on surfaces that only a few weeks ago had seemed immaculate.
And so, despite the fact that it is about 5 degrees above zero outside, I find myself trying to wash the inside of my windows. I shovel off parts of the deck in preparation for the annual return of the patio table and chairs. I hear birds singing and imagine their springtime courtship ritual has already begun.
I do not let a dump of a foot of snow interrupt my fantasy. The sun is back, the days are longer and darn it, as far as I’m concerned, it might as well be spring.
The odd thing about this is that I didn’t react this way to the return of the sun in Barrow where it truly was dark from the end of November till the end of January. The only thing that made me look into dark corners and closets in my Barrow homes was the fear that some lemmings were living there without a lease. Other than that, I had to move to actually go into some of the dimmer recesses of the house.
But here in Anchorage, the sun comes back so brightly, or so it seems to me, that I get crazed with energy. It’s probably the closest I’ll ever come to understanding the impulse that led my mother to so famously mutilate her linoleum.
As I come back from Wal-Mart’s with yet another pile of boxes, I find myself stopping in the garage and looking at it with a jaundiced eye. What had been perfectly ok last week now seems dingy, dreary and – most sinful of all – messy. It needs to be organized and it needs to be organized now. I’ve no time to wait for the snow to melt. I must pull this junk out to the driveway so I can rearrange it and return it to the garage in better order.
What’s that you say? Throw some of the junk out? I’m sorry. You apparently don’t understand what’s going on here. It’s not that I want to get rid of my junk – after all, if it wasn’t valuable why would all those people show up at garage sales? – no, what I want to do is just make neat, spotlessly clean piles of my junk.
My house is in imminent danger of becoming nothing more than a stack of plastic boxes. Everywhere I look I think, “I can put that in a plastic stackable and make it look organized.” My birds and dog hide when they see me approach them with a plastic container in my hand.
Someone please stop me before I try to scrub the spackled dots off my countertop.