They say the weather in Unalaska is harsh.
They say we live in the "cradle of the storms." That we may not live at the very end of the world, but you can see it from here.
We have appropriated a lot of pithy sayings and cliches to describe the ever-changing wild weather and we toss them around to our friends and family down south and to the island's newcomers whenever we can:
"If you don't like the weather now, wait a few minutes and see what happens."
"It was raining (or snowing) sideways."
"In any other part of the country, the storms we have would be given names (as in hurricanes)."
We say such things as grumbling complaints, but they barely conceal a blustery pride that says "That's right. It ain't easy, but I'm tough and I can take it. What kind of wimpy, everyday existence have you got going?"
It's all true, of course, and I would be the last to deny any of it.
But don't tell that to the ducks. They don't believe it for a minute.
Starting in October, they begin to arrive in the Aleutians and Unalaska, coming from faraway places like Point Barrow, Alaska, unmapped Siberian marshes, North Slope bird towns, and nameless ice floes in the Arctic Sea. They include harlequins, cormorants, emperor geese, thick-billed murres, goldeneye ducks, common eiders and black oystercatchers, among others.
When Makenzie Bay freezes over, and the Yukon is getting seriously cold, it's time to fly away and find a more friendly place. Like Dutch Harbor.
Our ice-free, fish-laden, deep-water bays are just the ticket for the ducks and migrating birds from way up north who think we live in a paradise on earth. They have never found any reason to search any further for a pleasant place to winter.
So the next time you're about to speak about the hellish weather, think about the ducks.
They're in heaven.