It was just a few weeks ago that Solstice came and went. I like the day as a harbinger of autumn to come – cool weather, disappearance of annoying insects, darkness, colors, fragrances, life on the move. Fall, autumn, The Season is my favorite. I certainly would trade a shorter summer for a longer Fall. No doubt I waste a lot of summer due to excuses about heat, bugs, too much time. Wait, what? Too much time? The endless daylight cancels any feeling of urgency to accomplish anything. When I fished, I had a sense of pulling in everything I could catch and sell. When I mined, I reveled in any daylight after 12 hours underground, and I appreciated summer then. Not so much now. I look forward to shorter days, and the coming of winter. I like looking for the first snows and falling leaves, firmer ground and crisper days.
4th of July and I hang on the month as the last of summer. August begins hunting season, September spells the earnestness of preparing for winter, and October is a month of grace, a spindle swiftly spinning off the heat of summer and building skeins of wool for winter to come. Old Alaska Sportsman magazines used to come with a new calendar stapled inside. We looked forward to that December magazine that took us everywhere we’d been or dreamed of going, and as a lifelong’r here in the state, it’s the only place I really ever have an interest in traveling. As a kid, this was the place that backdropped the rest of my life – living in the woods, on a mountain or by the sea, lake or river, but always in the bush. Living remote has been the theme of my life, all of it, and still is the focus of every plan I make for the future.
My sister skoffs gently about my constant “whining” about returning to bush life. I take it, bear the burden of ridicule, and determine anyway to keep looking forward to the place I’ll live with purpose. It’s there, it’s paid for, and we have a plan, but there’s still a life I’ve obligated myself to for as long as my father lives. He’s a gristly Alaskan I won’t walk away from, leave in town with no link to the life he led as a pilot and miner, a life filled with adventure around the world. He never complains, only chuckles and says it could always be worse. I like the way he looks at life because there’s always a future in his view.
That yardbird, the youngster I’ll plant a late crop of broccoli for. My father will come up to pitch in, do his part, and take home his share for the freezer. The fish we’ll smoke go into jars for his enjoyment later, a whiff of alder to season whatever he pairs with his salmon. Berries, jams, syrups and compotes fill autumn weekends, and I know already I need to plan when to pull potatoes and squeeze in the trip up valley to Valdez Creek for blueberries, ptarmigan, and photography of this season that defines my year. In my mind, life is all about autumn.