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Monday, October 11, 2010

Do Alaskans Have Less Hubris When It Comes to Nature?

This afternoon, the rain let up for a little while, long enough to take a walk on the Flume Trail near my house. It has been raining hard for several days, and the water in Gold Creek that runs next to the trail was so loud that I seriously thought a jet was flying overheard. Waterfalls had appeared where none had been before and those that always flowed had swollen considerably. And a couple of those waterfalls brought debris and water down off the mountain across the trail. The water, instead of flowing under the flume, now was flowing over the flume, flooding the trail. All of this change had happened quickly - in a few days - as it often does in Alaska. The power of nature is constant here: torrential rain, high winds, snowstorms, ice, earthquakes, and now the effects of global warming. 


Almost everyone has at least one story of a hike or fishing expedition or camping trip that, due to lack of preparedness, almost ends in disaster. I think it does make us more respectful of the elements. Hubris leads to risk taking, and in a place where the weather can change in an instant, risk taking can have tragic consequences.  I have a hard time leaving the house without a jacket even when it is sunny. I wear ice grippers in the winter. I listen to the flight attendant describe emergency exits as if I have never heard it before. I don't take much for granted. Does it mean Alaskans don't make stupid mistakes? No. What it does mean is that we pause long enough to remember the time we came to grief because of not being prepared - and then we take precautions. Today, I paused, remembered, and still didn't wear my rubber boots. Should have, I guess...



Friday, October 1, 2010

Juneau Weather Pathology



The Octopus, Paul Allen's yacht, in downtown Juneau recently.
The other day it was raining sideways, typical fall weather. We have been waiting for this to happen after an eerie stretch of warm sunny days. It feels right to be wet and cold again. When it is sunny for too long, I hear people say to one another that "we are going to pay for this." Somehow, the pleasure from good weather is not for the likes of us, at least not for long. Where else in the world do people have such a personal relationship with weather that we think that we don't deserve good weather? A friend of mine said that "we all feel guilty" when the weather is good and when the rain comes (punishment), we think we deserve it. But here is the truth about rain: it falls on us all, whether we deserve it or not. I rarely refer to the Bible, but here is part of an apt quotation: "for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."