Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The brightest time of year

Date: Dec. 16
Mileage: 12.5
December mileage: 431.4

The sun rose today at 8:42 a.m. and set at 3:06 p.m., for a daylight total of six hours and 24 minutes. Juneau is going to lose exactly one more minute of daylight between now and the solstice on Sunday; then we begin the long upward arc toward summer. It is, by most accounts, the darkest time of year. And yet, I don't see it that way.

Back when I first moved to Alaska and started venturing out into the snow and painful air to train for the Susitna 100, I joked with Geoff that winter was my favorite time of year in Alaska. But as years wore on, as snow fell and wind blew and I spent more and more time out in it all, that became less of a joke. Now I find myself in my fourth winter in Alaska, falling more deeply in love.

I love the sharp lines and soft colors of a world swept with snow and encased in ice.

I love the crunch of tires spinning up a difficult trail. In winter, the rides become so much harder; the rewards so much greater.

I love the random bruises that crop up on my skin after I fling myself off my bicycle in yet another battle with gravity. They remind me that I am pushing myself; that I am always pushing myself to be better.

I love the sting of cold air on sweaty skin, and the flecks of frost wrapped around strands of hair and eyelashes. They remind me that I am a furnace of self-perpetuating warmth, biologically engineered to move freely through the world, awake and alive.

I love the low sun and long shadows, stretched across pristine landscapes.

I love the stark, white surface of distant high mountains, looming with all the fragility of a ceramic sculpture and mystique of a forbidden border.

I love the deep silences and startling realizations.

I love my Pugsley.

I love winter.