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.
* 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.
* 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.