Slack Tide: 5 stages of winter weather grief

By Geoff Kirsch

When it comes to weather, I’m usually an undying optimist — ask my wife; it drives her nuts.

However, at this point — even with 54-inch snowpack at the base of Eaglecrest (and more than three times as much at the summit) — I think that might be it for winter, at least sea level. It burned bright then flamed out, too beautiful for this world, like Crystal Pepsi or the Segway.

It’s OK, though. I’ve come to accept it: we’ve reached winter’s end, no matter how many times I check the extended 10-day forecast.

Of course, acceptance, according to the Kubler-Ross model, commonly known as the “Five Stages of Grief,” represents the final stage one experiences when faced with impending death. The others are denial, anger, bargaining and depression. At some point every year, we Alaskans must deal with the death of winter… and hope like hell for a speedy rebirth, say by the following October. Nothing says “Alaska” like a snowball fight while trick-or-treating, except maybe shooting a halibut in the face with a .44 before hauling it into the boat.

Let’s trace the path:

Denial: Winter isn’t dead. Not remotely! It’s only March. And who cares if it came in like a lamb? It can still go out like a lion, or maybe something a little less than a lion. Maybe a cheetah? Or an ocelot? Yeah, that’s it—March can still go out like an ocelot. And look over there: a patch or two of snow clinging to life like the last proud shreds of a balding man’s comb-over. Okay, so I’m wearing shorts. I wear shorts every season here, only these days it’s not to show how everyone how tough I am. What travel plans for summer? I haven’t made any travel plans for summer. I only outlined dates. And booked reservations. But I’m still just “holding” those reservations. I’ve got 24 hours to cancel, change or pay, so there you go, winter still alive and kicking. Oh, and the tanzanite stores don’t open for almost a whole month. It’s still winter in Alaska if you can’t buy tanzanite.

Anger: Great, just great—what am I going to do with all this rock salt, now? And how about the 1000-pack of Little Hotties I impulse bought at Costco? Gaw! Bad enough I’ll have to drink all these leftover winter ales in the spring now, like some kind of cheechacko. And just when I finally figured out the kids’s ski gear. Now I have to start all over again with their bikes! Mother chum-bucket!!!

Bargaining: Tell you what? Just give me one more massive dump (of snow)—just enough snowshoe to a cabin, write my name in pee and take out those really nice sleds we’ve got parked in our garage, rode soft and put away dry. I promise I really will do all these things, instead of spending the whole time lazing by the woodstove still in my pajamas. Please? At the very least, how about enough fresh powder to build one last snowman? Or even just some wintry mix? I’ll make due with a wintry mix-man.

Depression: What’s the point of living in Alaska if you can’t amaze your friends in the Lower 48 with tales of shoveling off your roof, or by posting “Yeti beard” photos to Instagram? Serves me right for having faith in the resiliency of global climactic patterns.

Acceptance: Okay, winter’s over. There, I said it. No denying: spring is here and summer’s en route, and that’s okay. There’ll be other projects not to accomplish, equipment not to use and days to fritter away (most likely looking at something while drinking something). Maybe I’ll try gardening. Or trail running. Or, I could just get a hammock. As for winter… Alaska still does it better than anywhere else. I’ll never stop loving it and I’ll take whatever I can get, even if it’s just a one-month tease right around the holidays. We’ll try again next year—right after we finish grieving the death of summer.

• Geoff Kirsch is an award-winning Juneau-based writer and humorist. “Slack Tide” appears twice monthly in Neighbors.

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