Story last updated at 5/13/2009 - 11:28 am
With increased daylight comes increased pressure to get things done. The arctic terns near my home remind me of this every evening. As long as it is still light out, they continue chattering and darting around. It doesn't surprise me that they have the energy - after all, these birds annually migrate between the North Pole and the South Pole - but it makes me feel even more tired.
How can we ever keep up?
With our longer days come higher expectations for each day. If it's light out, I feel I should be awake and productive. At these latitudes, we adjust our schedules as the seasons change. Summer is a time for long, hard days of work. In winter, we get to rest and reflect.
The terns don't get a winter. They dart from the northern summer to the southern summer - 12,000 miles each way - and then when they get to their destination, they dart around and chatter.
Since we bought a live-aboard last fall, I know a little bit how these terns might feel. We didn't have much of a chance to hibernate in the winter. During our recent weeks of warm sun, we squeezed in a little relaxation but were mostly working on our boat.
One reason we're rushing to get our boat projects finished is that my parents are coming to visit next week. (I figure I should warn everyone in Juneau now: If they run into you in any circumstance, they're probably going to ask you if you know me. Please be nice to them.)
In the midst of our work, we've watched the new summer vessels arrive in the harbor. Although the overall number of boats is increasing, I always notice the boats are gone as well as the ones that have arrived to take their slips. I've easily gotten used to the appearance of new boats. It's always interesting to see who's new in the harbor when I walk home down the docks every day.
But it's a little disorienting when boats I've gotten used to seeing every day during the winter all of a sudden disappear. A couple of boats which docked near us all winter recently left for different harbors. Another boat of friends is planning to set sail this week.
Is it harder to welcome the new or bid farewell to the old? I suppose it depends on how much you like either the old or the new.
But I think in most circumstances changes that involve losing something are harder to accept than gaining something. We often try to balance losses with gains, like the terns leaving summer in one hemisphere for summer in the other.
Right now I feel complete in my life. When my parents come to visit, life will be richer for a week. But when they leave, I imagine I'll feel the loss of them acutely.
I'll visit some friends from college in June and I'm sure that when I bid farewell to them again, I'll also miss them more acutely than I do right now.
Maybe it's okay to have gaps for a little bit, to feel the loss.
Auke Lake finally broke up last week. There was a long period in which the ice was not safe to step on, but the break-up to become completely ice-free seemed to happen almost overnight.
One day a boat is here, one day a new one is in its slip. One day your friend is close by, the next day she's on the other side of the country. One day you're eating breakfast with your mother, the next you're e-mailing her about what you've been doing.
Many changes happen gradually, like the shifting of the seasons, the gradual increase of daylight. What came before is replaced by what's to come, and the adjustment period is almost instantaneous.
But when something suddenly drops out of your life, maybe it's best not to instantly replace it. When I feel a hole after my parents leave, or after I end a visit with a friend, or after a boat - or a favorite bird - departs, it's worth taking a moment to sink down into the empty hole, and truly appreciate what just left.
In this week's CCW, you might not notice anything missing, but I hope you'll notice a new feature in our Outdoors section, the Alaska Science Forum column by Ned Rozell of the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. As always, I'm interested in hearing what you think.
Contact CCW Editor Katie Spielberger at firstname.lastname@example.org.