Out of the Office: Early sunsets over Homer

It’s not much of a secret, I think, that winter is not my favorite season. Ironic, perhaps, considering I’ve made my home a place where winter is the predominant time-taker of the year’s allowance.

I’ve never liked being cold — my hands and feet perpetually feel like they’re made of ice, despite liberal application of warm layers and heating pads. However, I’ve acclimated enough in recent years to start thinking that temps around 25 or 30 degrees Fahrenheit, instead of 65 to 70, are “warm enough.” I really only start grumbling when it dips into the single digits and below. Let’s call that a success.

The late-rising and early setting sun also mess with my energy levels and sleep schedule — but I’m not a special case in that regard. I can’t count how many times I heard on the winter solstice, “Ah! But at least we’ll start gaining daylight again!” Everyone craves seeing the sun.

There are some spectacular benefits to the cold, dark season, despite my continued complaining. For one, the stars are so bright and numerous against a winter-black sky — something I miss all summer long when the sun dips just below the horizon, or the sky only purples enough to make it difficult to see without assistance.

Many nights, I’ll step outside my house, pulling my coat tight around me and huffing out whole clouds of breath, and stand in the middle of a snowfield with my head tilted back and eyes fixed on the points of light far, far above. They’re almost hypnotizing; I turn in circles to see them all, not taking my eyes away from the expanse of space, until I nearly fall over because I’ve made myself dizzy.

My favorite, though, is ironically tied to the late-rising and early setting sun. I’ve long been up and about by the time the sun makes its appearance around 9 a.m., or maybe 10 a.m., depending on which part of the winter we’re in. But it’s a lovely break, to pause from work and stand at the window and watch in quiet awe as vivid light and color reaches across the sky.

It’s also a nice reward at the end of the day to drive home surrounded by a fantastic natural color display — like, “You’ve worked hard, here, have a little treat.”

More often than not, my return home is slightly delayed because I have to stop along the side of the road and take photos. Yes, the sunsets are gorgeous nearly every day this time of year. No, I can’t pass up the chance to save this particular one.

Here’s where I’m thankful for that little pull-off by Beluga Lake, next to McDonald’s and the bear-viewing businesses shut down for the winter.

One day, when the sun was falling slowly behind the mountains across the mouth of the bay, and clouds stretched out their wispy fingers over the estuary to meet it and wave “good night,” and everything all at once was soaked in a brilliant display of golden, filmy light, I made a quick executive decision to pull over and roll down my window and time my photos with the passing of the cars that had been behind me.

Most of my photo album consists of landscape and nature shots. I’m not sorry for that.

I still look forward to spring and summer, when the sun is both bright and warm. But it’s nice to have these early sunsets to look forward to when we’re resigned to the long, cold months of winter.

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