Returning From Outside

Sometimes you have to get away



No one in her right mind leaves Alaska in the summer. It feels almost tragic to do so. You leave in the fall, when the days are so rapidly getting dark—with rain making them darker—that you think you might go crazy. Or you leave in the winter, to escape the pain of scraping your windshield day after day after day. Or you leave in the spring, when the snow’s too rotten for skiing and the ground is soupy with mud and even though you’ve been in Alaska for nearly two decades, your gut tells you it’s time to garden, though the soil is too frigid to work. So you leave.

Summer here is too brief, too singular. You don’t leave in the summer. But this is what we just did, spending two weeks in New England for my little brother’s wedding and for an unofficial family reunion afterward.

We came back home to cottonwood trees already sending off their seeds into the world on flying carpets of white batting. We came home to fireweed already in fuchsia bloom. We came home to our grateful blue heeler, who doesn’t hold a grudge that we left her behind. And we came home to find that the washing machine plumbing fiasco our house sitter had alerted us to—and cleaned up after—had been taken care of by a local plumber who expected to be paid day-of, which our neighbor had to do.

Summer has been getting on here without us just fine.

I don’t regret the trip one bit. I wouldn’t miss the time with family for anything. And it was a major consolation to be able to go for a languid dip in a New England lake—hugged by mountains shrunken by age—without muscles snapped taut by the cold. The top six inches of the lake were balmy and pleasant, but then I dove down into its frigid darkness.

I must admit: my body feels more at home now in those deeper waters.

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Miranda Weiss is a science and nature writer. The author of Tide, Feather, Snow: A Life in Alaska, she also wrote the Northern Lights blog for our website.


Please enter a valid email address
That address is already in use
The security code entered was incorrect
Thanks for signing up