Looking to the light

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One morning I was putting AJ in her carseat when our 5-year-old neighbor came out of the house next door. She waved and asked where we were going, and I told her we were going to a friend’s house for a playdate. She replied, “Now? In the middle of the night?” “It’s not night,” I said, “it’s almost ten in the morning.” She said, “But it’s still dark outside. Whenever I wake up and it’s still dark, my mom always says ‘go back to sleep! It’s not morning yet!’”

Some Alaska moms can get their kids to sleep until noon in the winter using that trick. Unfortunately, my daughter has an impeccable internal clock that wakes her up hours before light breaks the horizon, and she’s progressively waking up earlier and earlier.

Thankfully, so is the sun. Though it still rises at about the same time AJ takes her first nap, the increasing light already makes a big difference. Everything looks better from this side of the solstice.

Winter in interior Alaska lasts for almost three-quarters of the year, and in December we only get a very few short hours of sunlight. It would all be completely unbearable if it weren’t for one thing: seasonal temperature lag, the delay in the Earth’s surface temperature response to solar insolation. The warmest time of the year occurs after the peak of maximum solar insolation (summer solstice), and the coldest time of the year occurs after the time of lowest solar insolation (winter solstice). Temperature can lag insolation by up to three months, caused by the high specific heat of water in the oceans and atmosphere, which absorb incoming heat from the sun and release it slowly.

If there were no seasonal temperature lag, winter would be evenly split between either side of the solstice, and the darkest month of the year would also be the coldest. Our first four months of winter would be an agonizingly slow march towards ever-decreasing temperatures and light. By mid-winter, we would all be in a black hole of depression with nothing to look forward to because the second half of winter would be just as long and terrible as the first.

Thanks to temperature lag, two-thirds of the winter is spent in progressively increasing light, and the second half of winter has longer days than the first half. By the time we reach the coldest days of the year, the days are already longer than they were at the beginning of winter. And even though snow continues to linger long after spring equinox, summer’s constant daylight inches closer and heralds the warmth. Thank goodness for the specific heat of water.

Made with love

I’m a mom of a toddler. How did that happen? My daughter AJ is now a walking, tantrum-throwing one-year-old. She babbles up a storm, communicates with gestures and sign language, can follow directions, and plays in so many creative ways. Every day she understands more, expresses more, and becomes more like herself. Before I know it, she’ll be graduating from college and I’ll be looking at her newborn photos and saying, “how did my baby grow up so fast?”

Baby AJ is the best person I’ve ever met. I think my husband is pretty great, but I still look at the two of us and wonder how we could have made such a wonderful person. AJ is so happy, curious, and full of love. Her giggles and squeaks are the most joyous sounds in the world. She gives the most wonderful hugs, and she smells like pure love.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I have such bittersweet nostalgia for her newborn days. It makes me cry to look at photos of her when she was younger because I hardly had time to enjoy each stage. Back then, I didn’t know what a wonderful person she was going to become. I didn’t know how much I was going to love her. I loved her as much as I possibly could imagine, but I could not imagine as much love then as I can now. My capacity for love grows each day the more I get to know her and the person she is.

When I was pregnant, I remember thinking that I needed to savor the experience of having her in my belly, because I knew there would be days ahead when I would wish to experience it again. Not just to be pregnant again, but to be pregnant with her again. Now that I know who she is and what she is like, I wish I could carry her inside me again, close to my heart, cozy and safe. I wish I could go back and cuddle little newborn AJ with the knowledge of how fleeting that time was and what an amazing little girl she would become. It seems so unfair that time only moves in the forward direction.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA