Life in the Pedestrian Lane: An augmented Alaska summer

I suppose I don’t need to tell you that this weather doesn’t lend itself to sitting in front of a computer writing profound thoughts. Alaska is having another “real” summer, the third in a row. 2014 was a little slow to begin, but July and August made up for it and I’m sure we all recall the summer of 2015. Now we are blessed with one of those summers that most of us remember nostalgically from childhood: balmy mornings, afternoons in the sun, and evenings that go on and on. And so far (she says, fingers crossed) no bad local fires.

We returned from our annual Idaho jaunt mid-June to the lilacs already in full bloom. Everything is a couple of weeks early. Gardeners are shaking their heads at the quick onset of vegetables that usually don’t mature until August and lawn mowers are getting lots of exercise this summer. So far no one has said “Dammit! When will it end?” but I expect that next as the sunshine goes on and on.

I’m kidding, of course. I don’t know any Alaskan who laments sunshine. And while I’ve heard a few “Wow! It’s sure hot!” remarks, everyone seems really glad to shed the hoodie and show off the Salty Dawg T-shirt. Lots of signs of summer in full swing are visible: the legislature and the governor are three innings into their spitting contest, national politicians are continually on TV, athletes are getting ready for the Olympics, and a few fireweed fields are already in full purple splendor.

And this summer, all at once, the kids have a new game to entice them: Pokemon GO. I’m still learning about it, but from what I have found out so far, by osmosis, actually, is that it is a Nintendo game played on your smartphone using the GPS and the clock. And it’s free! I was never a Pokemon fan, so I can’t speak to the appeal, but apparently, if you believe the hype, it is what fans of the little monsters have been dreaming of since they were 10 years old.

When I was 10, all I had were some books, Saturday morning radio and my very vivid imagination. And my siblings and friends were the same. We played cowboys and Indians (we didn’t know it wasn’t politically correct), built forts out of cardboard boxes, and hideouts in the hay barn. We were outside so long in the summer that our mom forgot she had kids, except at meal time, of course, which was usually grabbed on the run between the back yard and the creek.

If by chance we had friends over, or went to their house, it was much the same. Somebody might have a tire swing, or a swimming hole in the creek, or even a horse we could ride but it was pretty much the same drill: stay outside as long as possible. (Those early years were the only time I ever thought I wanted to be a little boy. They didn’t EVER have to go to the house, whereas we girls had to make a dash every now and then, unless the boys were off somewhere killing pirates or hunting elephants.)

I guess what I’m getting at is that I don’t understand a kid having to have a mechanical device to lure him/her outside in this terrific weather, even if it captures elusive, and very imaginary monsters. They call it “augmented reality.” My pre-teen reality was pretty augmented with a skinned knee, bruised elbows and once a black eye, but from what I see (on the national news no less) older kids and adults are the main players of Pokemon Go and are out there hunting. Granddaughter No. 7 tells me there are about 300 or more of those characters to collect, and yes, she’s participating between work hours as an excuse to go out walking (yeah, right!).

So summer is well underway. Dip netting has started; tourists are in and out; berries are getting ripe and local politicians are gearing up for the election season. The National Conventions are in full swing, road construction will start again on August 1 and daylight is already under 18 hours. When the silvers hit the river and those big fields of fireweed start topping out we will know it’s winding down and we have to concede another summer on the score card.

The Alaska Primary is on August 16; School starts on August 23 and then it’s really over. I heard a long range forecast that we are coming out of the El Nino weather cycle and heading into the La Nina, which foretells colder temperatures.

We’ve had a few “real” summers, maybe we will have a real winter again. I wonder if the Pokemons like the augmented reality of snow?

Virginia Walters lives in Kenai. Email her at

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