As I write this Sept. 8, since July 1 Homer has had eight days of clear weather, 30 days of rain and 31 days of cloudy or partly cloudy skies.
And yet we endure.
I grew up in Florida, and as a child I came to expect that on any given summer day a squall might blow in, drenching everything and putting a stop to fun activities like lawn mowing.
The last summer before college I worked as a groundskeeper at a big Tampa apartment complex and came to expect an afternoon thunderstorm about 2 p.m. Once the storm had passed, sun would shine again and after maybe 10 minutes everything would have dried up.
When hurricane season started in August in Florida, if a full-on hurricane didn’t blow in, we came to expect weeks of clouds and rain — huh, kind of like Alaska. In late summer, our family often rented a cottage at Longboat Key on the Gulf of Mexico coast.
We planned for a day or two of rain and would do some sort of indoor activity. I have fond memories of tooling around St. Armand’s Circle on Lido Key looking at shell shops, dodging puddles, and dashing in and out of the rain.
All of which is to say, if you didn’t grow up in maritime Alaska, growing up in Florida also would prepare you for a life of dreary, wet, early fall weather. Alaska gets the same kind of foul weather, except that we’re farther north and at the tail end of a different tropical weather system.
Along with rain comes the changing of the seasons. Fireweed turns to fluff. Flowers go to seed.
I won’t say I enjoy the clouds and rain, but I won’t say I hate it, either. I’ve adapted. After 66 years on this planet, all but two years spent near the coast, as with so many lessons of life, I have come to accept that many things I cannot change and I must roll with as best I can. Stuff happens.
Whether it’s a surprising medical diagnosis or a Sunday afternoon which includes thunder, lightning and hail all in one hour, the forces which cause and control events do not care about what happens to us. Those forces not only have no empathy, they have no sentience or thought.
It’s not that they don’t care so much as they can’t care. Does gravity take spiteful glee when you fall? No. You just fall. You may believe in a deity which has powers over the universe, but then there’s the old joke about how to make God laugh: Make plans.
Homer rain has its upside in that except for these rare blasts of full-on drenching rain — hello, Florida! — most of the time we get clouds.
I don’t love clouds but I don’t mind them, either. You can see better in clouds. Clouds do not cause glare. Photography can be easier. You don’t have to worry about lining up a shot so the sun is at your back. People’s faces won’t be in shadow.
Greens and blues actually seem more vivid with clouds. That cobalt blue of a Steller’s jay? Shazam! When I walk the beach looking for hag stones and heart rocks, they don’t get lost in shadow. When I did archaeology, we gloried in cloudy days because you could see every little flake better.
With our light rain, you can dress more easily for the weather. A light water-resistant jacket works fine, especially paired with rubber boots. Maybe you need some rain pants if you’ll be strolling through thigh-high fireweed and bluejoint grass. I’ve avoided grassy fields this summer.
As Norwegians and Alaskans say, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.”
A clever entrepreneur could make a lot of money dressing Alaskans for the weather, which might be why we have more outdoor gear stores than fancy dress boutiques. I have two nice blazers and 379 jackets and sweaters.
Recently, an Irish man visited my wife at her bookstore during one long stretch without a break in the weather. Perhaps he’d heard of the mountains and glaciers across the bay and inlet, and wondered if that was so much tourist propaganda.
“Is Alaska always like this?” he asked, and Jenny reassured him that it was not, but he wasn’t having it.
“I might have well as stayed in Ireland,” he said.
In Ireland they have rainbows and here in Homer we have them too — amazing rainbows, it turns out. When the clouds break and the sun shines, the physics of refraction mean broad bows of color will stretch across both sides of Kachemak Bay.
I have seen more rainbows this summer than any other year. A few times we have had double rainbows, which, OK, we deserve.
And when the weather breaks for a day or two, as happened on Labor Day, that can be enough to make us forget all the misery, all the cold, all the fog and clouds and gloom.
I’d taken a break to go out to the Spit for an affogato at Carmen’s Gelato — gelato drenched in espresso. Oh my. In all my years of gelato, I’d never had that. Remember that you will discover something new every day of your life.
As I waited in line, the sun lit up the Spit and the mountains and the bay. Homerites took the holiday for one last trip to the Spit, joined by lucky tourists not intimidated by a forecast of rain. Sometimes if you expect nothing you get treasure.
A rare day of sunshine in a time of despair won’t always get you through. Sometimes you need love and friendship and reassurance. Rain makes the sun matter more. Sun reminds you of why we have clouds, and in that burst of sunshine, in the flash of a rainbow, our hearts warm and our eyes light up and we can do the work to keep going.