Photo: Maridav/Shutterstock

7 Signs You've Been Away From Alaska Too Long

by Jennifer Gracey Nov 29, 2016

1. You’ve turned into an unapologetic weather snob.

Everything in your present location shuts down at the faintest rumor of snow. As you wake up expecting to find a snowpocalypse, you catch a glimpse of your neighbor out the window. She’s bent over and ‘shoveling’ a millimeter of snow out of the walkway with a plastic dollar store dust pan. You also stare, slack jawed, at the vehicles driving past with chains on their tires. All the drivers seem oblivious to the fact that there is no actual snow on the road. When your friends post gleeful “IT SNOWED!!” images on social media, you roll your eyes, shake your head in pitiful sympathy, and wonder how anyone can call rainy slop mixed with the odd snowflake anything other than “slush”. “Snow? THAT is NOT snow. You people have no idea what you are talking about. Amateurs.

2. Anything other than “wild Alaskan salmon” sends you running for the hills.

You catch sight of a “fresh salmon” display card at the market. Excited and mouth watering for a taste of home, you find instead, pasty pale pinkish-orange slabs of farmed fish that look nothing like actual salmon and everything like the fish we serve up as dog food. Duped into fruitless hopefulness, you remind yourself for the millionth time, “Give up on this stupid wild salmon chase — just catch your own next time you go home.

3. When people point out Mountain XYZ you reply, “Aw… that’s cute.

And then sincerely ask, “Are you sure it’s officially a mountain because it looks like a really tall hill from here?” You also weirdly relish watching your guides wrap their heads around your Alaskan response to their local pride and joy. Size matters and when you’re Alaska grown and Denali’s in your big, beautiful back yard — let’s just say, you’re the wrong audience and not easily impressed.

4. You geek out on all things Alaskan.

As the home tribe posts images of their newest pair of mukluks, porcupine quill earrings, morning snow, mountain range and moose eating frozen pumpkin on social media, your heart swells with an acute case of inflamed Alaskan-itis. You vow, “Next time I go home, I AM getting myself a new pair of mukluks, some ‘real’ hand-made-by-Alaska-Natives jewelry, a bag of porcupine quills to make some of my own and a better lens for the camera to document me getting my Alaskan on. Oh yeah, and a new hand carved-antler handle ulu, a pair of seal skin slippers, an Eskimo yo-yo, a piece of whale baleen, some carved ivory figures, maybe a native mask (or two), at least three more Alaska birch bowls, an Alaska Grown hoodie, a couple of Barbara Lavelli mugs, an Alaska-themed adult coloring book and a sampler kit of Alaska Wild Berry jams.” And that list is merely for the first day out shopping.

5. You refuse to relinquish your DIY habits.

Among them include this weirdly Alaskan custom called, “Save that! We might need it later.” You figure out ways to store a full garage worth of tools, hooks, nails, screws, etc. in a plastic rubbermaid bin at the back of a closet because you never know when you’re going to need to build yourself another piece of furniture. You are also known for habitually saying, “In Alaska, we would just make that ourselves”, and then impressing everyone by actually making it.

6. You develop claustrophobic tendencies and turn into a hermit.

In Alaska, you were out enjoying the vast expanses of wilderness and space-a-plenty. Now, you call staying indoors at home your great escape — there are no people at home except you, your dog, and the other humans you allow to live with you. The crushing crowds, the bumper-to-bumper traffic, the insanity of public transportation and the never-ending mechanized humming of big city life render you a skittish humanoid who emerges after dark. Why? It’s the only time you can garner semi-solitude on the streets. There’s also a strange comfort found in reliving the iconic darkness of an Alaskan winter. These odd behaviors lend surprising insight into how well Alaskans function as nocturnal creatures — a reality you never pondered before leaving Alaska.

7. You cry about not having a fireplace.

A fireplace is a staple in the Alaskan home. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes but, everyone knows the wood burning stove is by far the best in terms of providing household heating. That homes were constructed sans fireplace was unthinkable in your youth, so you mope around your present digs wallowing in regret-infused nostalgia because you failed to realize how much of a first-class life you had back in the good old days. There’s something about watching the snow pile up outside while sitting next to a raging fire with a good book in hand that makes the world feel full.

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