Story last updated at 10/28/2009 - 12:18 pm
The little cold snap that brought that first shocking film of ice on the puddles confronted us right in the face with compelling evidence that summer is history. Along with the inconvenient onset of early darkness, leaves falling from the alders, and the odoriferous slant of the salmon creeks, the days are becoming chillier and it is clearly not a time of flowering vegetables any longer. Ahh, so much summer gathering and playing, so little time....
Back in spring, once the snow had melted and the fun had begun, my available time was in constant competition between fly-fishing, kayak paddling, beach asparagus gathering and getting the garden seedlings started. The race was on to make the most of our Southeast Alaskan summer season!
Just the berries alone present an overwhelming number of choices for edible harvest. The salmonberries ripen first, followed soon by blueberries, red and blue huckleberries, cloudberries, crowberries, bunchberries, thimbleberries, watermelon berries, currents, juniper berries and finally in fall the high, low and bog cranberries, to mention a few.
Even though there is always something to harvest - as summer progresses and each type of plant matures past its prime - I feel a little twinge of regret that another season's chance is over for that plant. So much for the blueberry wine again this year, but I'll be glad I had time to pick enough berries for jam on my muffin some cold, snowy morning.
Spring fly fishing for trout is hard to beat before the adult salmon arrive in the river, but I could be picking berries, heading out on the saltwater for halibut, exploring a new mountainside for interesting rocks, or even working on those less important things like painting the house - so the decision is tough.
This last summer one decision was made for me after a long stretch of very hot sun and drought where the river was getting lower and lower. I was catching some nice trout but felt badly about the extra stress on the ones I had to release. The next day I noticed they felt oddly warm compared to the cold fish thing they usually have going on. After that, I quit fishing until it rained enough to raise the water level and allow the fish to get the needed oxygen and lower temperatures in which they thrive.
So it goes as we move on through summer. Hopefully there are days spent just enjoying the sun, perhaps beside a cool lake with a picnic and friends to share the day.
Now, in mid-October, it is the last chance for firewood gathering procrastinators to shape up and finish filling their woodsheds because those logging roads can be made impassable by one little surprise blizzard and that will be that for the duration.
My container plants have invited themselves inside and cluttered up the living room with marigolds, tomatoes and peppers. I've dug potatoes but still anticipate brussels sprouts and carrots from the greenhouse.
Nature is all about transition and that certainly shapes our activities to a large extent. Fall and winter experiences are just waiting to add new dimensions to our pursuits. For now the mushrooms are still good and the cranberries await. We can go hunting for a while, then watch the snow accumulate for some great cross-country skiing. It doesn't have to be summer to love living in Alaska.
Carla Pedersen is a remote-living freelance artist and writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org