Hateful things

Dear goodhearted reader,

My letters, I’m afraid, too often describe only the unique beauty and wondrous wilds of Alaska. Perhaps I wander off on tangents of romanticism or present an idealized version of my home.

Years ago in a graduate creative writing course, I discovered Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book. It’s a 10th century Japanese equivalent of the memoir, but what stayed with me is her amusing, telling list of hateful things. I highly recommend it.

In honor of truthfulness and in respectful imitation of Sei Shonagon, here is my list of hateful things:

* One forgets to bring in the liquid laundry detergent from the car, so that when it is time to launder one’s eight loads of clothes at the laundromat, it is a solid chunk of frozen soap and impossible to pour.

* The flock of ravens that follows one’s pickup truck around town because of the collection of trapping bait in the back. To be the center of such an embarrassing scene — hateful!

* The 35th straight day of constant, grating, silt-laden Matanuska wind that rips one’s hat off one’s head and blows plastic shopping bags into the trees. It is quite unpleasant.

* January. Frozen, dark, gray, holiday-less January.

* One makes the long drive home from work behind a pickup truck pulling a trailer full of four-wheelers at an agonizingly slow pace, only to have the driver launch to illegal speeds once a passing lane becomes available. Such charmless, detestable behavior!

* Bumper stickers on Alaskan automobiles that say “I Hate Snow.”

* One stands, overheated and exhausted in winter boots and coat, in the crowded line at the post office for 45 long minutes to hand a slip to an overworked, quarrelsome employee, only to receive in exchange … the annual Cabela’s sporting goods catalog.

* January.

* One spends the entire day making homemade eggnog, handwhipping egg whites from one’s own chickens and pouring in lavishly expensive brandy, but when one sets it on the back porch to keep chilled until the guests have arrived, one’s dog laps up half the bowl. One is forced to confess the embarrassing mishap to the guests, who choose to drink the last of the eggnog anyway.

* The two hours required to inflate the tires and start the engine in the rusty plow truck in order to spend half an hour plowing the driveway before needing to re-inflate the tires. (This hateful thing contributed by my husband Sam.)

* Daylight savings in a place that has 4 hours of daylight on winter days and 20 hours on summer days.

* Rocks in an otherwise perfect sledding hill. Hateful things!

* One calls to order a product, a pair of socks or a dish towel, only to be told that it will cost double the advertised price because of the cost of shipping to Alaska, which the telephone associate is not sure is even part of the United States. What foolishness!

* A legal, spike-horned bull moose standing in one’s garden, chomping one’s precious, tender cabbages and broccoli, three days before the opening of hunting season. One is tempted to shoot the thing anyways, but then one remembers she is married to an Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist with a badge, so refrains.

* One wakens to howling wind, blowing snow, and icy roads, only to learn that school has NOT been canceled. (This hateful thing contributed by my eldest daughter.)

* A cold and rainy summer that allows for only one dip in the neighborhood lake.

* January.

* One sits quietly minding one’s own business on an airplane only to have the nearby seatmate strike up a conversation and, upon learning that one is from Alaska, ask if one knows a certain famous/infamous never-to-be-named-here Alaskan, and if one admires/hates this Alaskan. Why must this conversation ever occur?

* A broken car heater that requires one to wear mittens, fur hat, coat, scarf, and snowsuit and to scrape the ice from the inside of the windshield as one is driving to town. Most hateful!

* One plans a sledding party weeks in advance, only to have it unexpectedly rain in the middle of winter and turn the hill to slush.

* The constant complaining of people who have lived in Alaska for 20 years but have always wanted to live somewhere else. How tiresome!



P.S. My favorite blogger The Rejectionist did a similarly inspired post a while back. I highly recommend it, too.

23 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mr. Baer
    Aug 19, 2011 @ 07:04:32

    Since retirement I find myself more at one with the world, pet peeves are only small annoyances now, great for the blood pressure, but in the spirit of today’s blog, here are a few things that only slightly bother me:

    Getting up before the crack of dawn to get to my favorite silver fishing hole, only to find a boat already parked in it.

    Coming back from that early morning fishing trip, visions of having that last piece of blueberry pie, only to find someone already ate it.

    Hole jumpers – a fishing term and something I’ve been falsely accused of.

    An early snowfall in late September, compounded by a phone call from a certain neighbor, not to be mentioned in name, extolling, “Isn’t it beautiful!”

    The sound of rain in the midst of winter.

    Squirrels in the bird feeder, on the deck, even the windowsill, which brings to mind a recent article in the ADN about an onslaught of squirrels in the town of Haines.

    Being found out by someone you just met, that you once worked for Fish & Game, to then be subjected to an on slot of fishing stories and questions, and hey don’tcha know I’m retired!

  2. Lola Walter
    Aug 19, 2011 @ 08:20:14

    I knew that “He who must not be named” meant Lord Voldemort, but I did not know that “She who must not be named” referred to his female Alaskan counterpart. I will always refer to her in the future (when I am forced to discuss her at all) using your reference. Thanks, Eowyn!

    • Eowyn Ivey
      Aug 19, 2011 @ 09:13:38

      Ha! You caught both my references πŸ™‚ And thank you for honoring my ban and not typing the name that shall never appear on my blog.

  3. Peg Mages
    Aug 19, 2011 @ 08:31:28

    …and we thought winters were bad here in Buffalo, NY!

    Thank you, Eowyn, for your entertaining, insightful, and informative view of life in Alaska. Keep it coming.

    • Eowyn Ivey
      Aug 19, 2011 @ 09:15:35

      I don’t know — more often than not, Papa and Yaya report more awful weather there in Buffalo than here. Maybe we should all move to Florida with Alma.

  4. Alma
    Aug 19, 2011 @ 08:44:35

    Thank goodness, everything is not perfect. And I was just thinking of leaving Florida and all its BUGS. Maybe I will wait awhile.

  5. Jim Ivey
    Aug 19, 2011 @ 10:38:14

    Hateful things: letter with state abbreviation, “Ak.,” that went to Arkansas before coming to Alaska. Missing a year of coming to Alaska. Anything that would cause grandchildren to have a bad day. If The Snow Child is not made into a movie! Having sold my heliocourier. Having sold the former Sherrod place in Palmer.

    • Eowyn Ivey
      Aug 19, 2011 @ 10:52:25

      These are great, Jim! It would be super if you still had the airplane and the Sherrod farm. And it would be awful for all of us if you didn’t come north at least once a year. As for the movie, odds are certainly against it, but it is fun to daydream …

  6. Sue Mathis
    Aug 19, 2011 @ 10:58:50

    I agree with the “she who will not be named” comments. Hateful thing: Someone finding out you’re from NY and asking you if you know “so and so.” Don’t they realize there are millions of people in NY??? Also, just because you live in Alaska people think you love hunting, fishing, hiking, snow machining etc. – NOT!

  7. Melissa Behnke
    Aug 19, 2011 @ 12:16:53

    I’m going to suggest we have a “spa day” or do something fun in the middle of January! πŸ™‚ Feel
    free to remind me!

  8. Nancy Driscoll Stroup
    Aug 19, 2011 @ 13:27:35

    I agree wholeheartedly with most of these complaints. I also hate the long lines at the Post Office, but at the Palmer P.O., some of the employees are friendly (not all but some!), esp. the nice older man named Henry.

  9. Shirley Novak
    Aug 19, 2011 @ 14:18:20

    There isn’t anything wrong with January. If you need a holiday in January it can always be my birthday.

  10. Sue Mathis
    Aug 19, 2011 @ 15:24:25

    My anniversary is in January!!!

  11. betty rachel
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 06:46:36

    Yet again you make me laugh as I nod in agreement with so many of your things …January (definitely)

  12. Nana
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 07:43:50

    Haha..cool, I love hate-lists!
    I would say this list makes an intresting living for you guys..’January and the snow’ is the equivalent of my ‘August and the sun’.
    aand..even here on this side of the world we know the she-never-to-be-named!!LOL

  13. Eowyn Ivey
    Aug 21, 2011 @ 21:04:54

    I know — there are good things that happen in January, like birthdays and anniversaries. I almost chose February as my hateful month, but that’s my birthday month and the publication date for The Snow Child. The truth is, though, I would love to leave Alaska from Jan. 15 to Feb. 15 and go to some tropical island without blowing snow or dark days.

  14. Annie Aube
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 14:32:07

    The last one sounds like it was meant for me πŸ™‚ Guess that’s why I’m finally down here now. Even though it kind of freaks my brain out that it is so hot outside right now, when normal fall would be started!

    • Eowyn Ivey
      Aug 22, 2011 @ 16:33:00

      You didn’t complain THAT much, and you did something about it — left me to go to Portland! 😦 The truth is we all complain sometimes, but I do think if you don’t really love it here, it is a good idea to find some place you do love.

  15. Carol Heffley - Colden,NY
    Aug 23, 2011 @ 04:54:26

    Dear Eowyn, I loved the eggnog story. Having a house full of English Mastiffs I can relate !! – All the best, Carol

  16. Trackback: Twenty things that make me happy « Letters from Alaska
%d bloggers like this: