Nick Varney

Nick Varney

Unhinged Alaska: A guide to the seasons

Figuring out the signs of seasonal change is easy, right?

Defining the commencements of the seasons around here can be a bit challenging.

One year we mow the lawn through October then when the goblin month rolls around again, we are lucky to spot the yard through the drifts. What’s up with that?

At the moment, the northern half of the state is getting pounded with snowstorms while things around here are so mild and rainy that the lingering ducks are in danger of starting a subtle spring molt.

Nevertheless, as the drab wet gradually transforms into a silvery mantel, the snowmobile buffs’ eyes will focus on the highlands as they tune up their rockets-on-skis while the boarding zealots are slapping wicked wax on their foot sleds fantasizing about a season of awesome shredding as long as the term is not exclusive to body parts.

Figuring out the signs of seasonal change is easy, right? The fireweed goes to seed early and we sharpen the ice skates. If the cranes wimped out and blow south earlier than usual, we’d better be stacking wood and topping off the fuel oil tanks. Spot termination dust? Join the NASCAR rally race to get the tires changed over.

Come on folks, those harbingers of transformation are all basic folklore.

Most of us, whether we admit it or not, have our personal indicators that we follow when it comes to proclaiming the real start of a season.

For me, spring arrives when the first chinook sticks its head around the western tip of the peninsula and heads north into the Cook for looking to hook up at the spawning grounds or, preferably, my expertly presented herring trailing a KoneZone flasher.

My wife, on the other hand, officially recognizes the season by going all Ninja on her flower beds, boxes, and pots making sure nothing evil has encroached upon her queendom of roses, peonies, forget-me-nots, blue-bearded irises, lilies, petunias, pansies, lobelia, geraniums and a giant mutant dahlia that I’m convinced is responsible for keeping our shrew population in check.

To us, summer is legitimately here when the Homer Spit looks like a dramatic reenactment of the Normandy invasion utilizing motor homes as mini battleships supporting ground forces storming the Salty Dawg bar in search of brews and an iconic hoodie. That circumstance is reliant, of course, on being able to score a reservation to travel on the Kenai Peninsula’s highways.

Fall rolls around when there are more rifles and spotting equipment than tackle boxes in pickups and most of the domestic farm animals are sporting orange vests.

As for winter, that official recognition comes harder for me after so many years in the far north. Jane winterizes her rig when October debuts its moon. I, on the other hand, tend to ignore obvious signs such as the trail to the beach morphing into a luge run and/or the freezing winds sinking their icicle fangs into my hide. Nope, I usually don’t seem to get it until things become so annoying that I have to fight my way out of the driveway because I still haven’t slapped on the studs and the snow line is officially residing on the beach.

This year, I’m doing the moon bit. I’m old but still somewhat trainable.

I’m also going with the Farmer’s Almanac that has promised a milder winter, temperature wise, although it claims we may be up to our COVID masks in snow.

That’s just fine with me because I thoroughly detest frigid weather where we can’t get out of the harbor to stalk winter kings because of the solid blocks of ice bobbing around in the bay that could serve as alternate runways for the airport.

Unfortunately, 2020 has spawned an additional season that we can all do without and that is the one of discontent.

It keeping way too many people isolated way too much. I’m starting to overhear empty-eyed humanoids seriously droning on about ancient dust ups regarding the plausibility of the Kardashians possessing discernible IQs or electrifying ankle sock sales available on competing shopping channels. It’s beginning to make maintaining a discrete 6 feet separation in a checkout queue not quite enough. Especially when the person chatting is conversing with someone no one else can see.

It’s not all doom and gloom. Far from it.

Luckily, we have discovered a shining light breaking through the doldrums of self-quarantining.

We have adopted a little rescue dog that has gone through a lot more than we have this year. She would be perfectly in her right to never trust a human again but instead of nurturing hate in her heart, she reaches out for love and understanding.

She is learning to trust again and blissfully greets the world each day rather than cower from it.

Every week she gets stronger, her eyes have life once again and her tail now dances rather than droops.

Hopefully, she represents the future for all of us. All it takes is compassion, patience and the will to care.

Wishing you all a peaceful Thanksgiving.

Nick can be reached at

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