Season of breakup, bathe me in your pothole water. Scent my world with the moldy perfume of a car that’s been frozen every day for six months and is finally thawed. Scatter gravel in my running shoes. Uncover for me a flower bed full of brown nubs and I will declare it beautiful.
This time of year is as much a mental state as it is a short, dirty season. If you don’t live here, don’t try to understand. If you do live here, then you know exactly what I mean when I say ugly is the new awesome.
Pleasure is a grit-covered snow berm going snow-cone soft in the sun. Delight is the sound of melt dripping from the eaves. Satisfaction comes from watching the white rectangle that covers your lawn shrink every day.
When that dusty perimeter of my lawn came out a week or two ago, I got a dizzy flush of hope. The same kind of secret hope I get halfway through a sports game when the score is tied and I’m rooting for the underdog. The kind of hope the Irish don’t talk about because talking about it could make something go wrong. Every new inch of exposed dead yard, studded with moose droppings and webbed over with snow dirt, gives me a jolt of happiness. Some might say it’s disgusting, but I know better.
Outsiders have a summer handed to them, but around here we earn it. It feels better that way. Winter’s weight piles on slow. By March most of us can’t bear it. Now we’ve reached the final mile in our marathon, friends. Morning light streams through the north-facing windows.There’s a whisper of fullness of buds on the trees. It smells like melty dog poo and asphalt dust. To us, this is ambrosia.
And we’re high on it. The street vendors are out selling hot dogs amid the slush. You can wear sunglasses past dinner time. If a sidewalk is clear, we’re running and pushing strollers and riding bikes. We’ve forgotten our jackets at home.
I’ve already seen a woman at a bus stop wearing flip-flops. It was 45 degrees, but it might as well have been 80. She was nodding to her iPod. She was wearing yellow. I also saw a guy in bike shorts shoveling his lawn into the street. I feel you, bro. No judgment here.
Rubber boots are in style right now. Movie stars are wearing them in California. Nordstrom is selling them for more than $100. I’m fairly certain that Anchorage, Alaska, during breakup is among the few places in the country where a person can truly justify a purchase like that. The puddles here will drown a pug. A few of them could swallow a beagle.
Go ahead, buy a pair of rubber boots. Breakup boots. Or dig out your flip-flops and get a pedicure. Shovel a path to the grill. Take your car through the car wash again. And again. And again. These are the cherished rituals of the season.
Your cousin in Oregon and your friend in Washington, D.C.? Let them post their little pictures on Facebook of daffodils and cherry blossoms. A true Alaskan doesn’t get twisted up wishing they were somewhere else right now.
A true Alaskan savors it. Breakup is like that moment right before you eat a huge piece of chocolate cake. Every wad of sodden trash in the median, every naked tree, every ice-glazed puddle hums with anticipation. We know what comes next.
See more of Anchorage during breakup in a gallery by ADN photographer Marc Lester:
Photos: Breakup in Black and White