Goodbye night

Dear tireless reader,

This week in Barrow, Alaska, the sun will rise one last time and not go down again until August. Twenty-four hours of daylight, all summer long.

We live hundreds of miles south of Barrow, but even here in Southcentral Alaska, the days are growing long. Last night the sun didn’t set until 10:30 p.m., and it was back up at 5 this morning. Once we hit summer solstice in June, we will have just over four hours of “night”, but even then the dark isn’t really dark. It’s a kind of long twilight.

A midnight sunset on Alaska's Arctic slope during a caribou hunting trip.

This drives some people nuts. In the summers, they have to darken their rooms with blanket-style curtains and still the chirping of songbirds at midnight keeps them awake. Then, when the black nights of winter return, some find it gloomy and depressing.

But I love the extremes of this place. It might help that I grew up here. I do sleep less in the summer. This time of year, we find ourselves working on projects until 9 at night without realizing the hour. Once summer is in full swing, we’ll be weeding the garden at 10 p.m. and letting the kids run around in the yard until 11. The next morning, we won’t be as tired as we should. Partly because it will be light well before we crack open our eyes.

Summer in Alaska is a time to go, go, go. Some days we will rise at 4 a.m. to go king salmon fishing, sipping coffee in the pickup truck as we tow the boat to the landing. Other nights we’ll drink homebrew and play bocce ball on a neighbor’s lawn until midnight. I push away the fatigue, knowing that once winter comes, I’ll have plenty of time to sleep.

One summer when my husband and I were back home from college, he stayed up all night helping a friend bring in his hay crop. I remember standing in the field at 3 a.m., robins calling from the trees, the sky that tender, pale blue. I knew I was home.




  • Sue Mathis says:

    Although Summer Solstice is a very happy time here in Alaska, with midnight parties and celebrations, for me it’s a little sad. The next day we start losing minutes of precious sunlight. For me it’s the beginning of the end of summer. Don’t get me wrong, I love summers here. All the sunshine and beautiful days that last long into the “night” are wonderful. But after June 21st, the days grow shorter and before I know it, it’s dark and winter again. But I guess that’s life in Alaska – you gotta love it to live here!

    • Eowyn Ivey says:

      Very true, Sue! The countdown to summer solstice is bittersweet. And it always comes faster than I expect, even after all these years.