Autumn and I breathe a sigh of relief. Time slows, evenings lengthen. Whatever summer activities, multiplied and frenzied beneath a midnight sun, slowly wean themselves in the tempered days of fall. I have hiked the trails – Chena Dome and Angel Rocks and Rock River Trail. The Tanana Valley State Fair came and went, with rides and Polish dogs and Cajun shrimp. Flowers and vegetables have been coaxed to unimaginable heights in the almost continuous daylight. The seafood freezer is full, crammed with salmon dip-netted from the Chitina River and halibut from Katchemak Bay. Summer visitors have left, taking home with them images of floating down the rivers, eating crabcakes at the Pump House, and of Denali National Park. And I can settle, glad for the quieter seasons to come, with days eased to a slower tempo, when a moose crossing the road is the only traffic jam in my day.
Autumn arrives explosively to the interior of Alaska. There is no gentle transition into it. Instead, the season arrives with such an extravagance of color that its impression will last in my mind well into the long winter to come. Birches turn yellow and amber, the muskeg rust colored, the lichen white. The air is crisp and clear, the sky cerulean and expansive.
It is time to prepare ourselves for the upcoming winter. We harvest the last of the vegetable garden, knowing that soon moose will amble up close to the house, searching for remnants. We clean up the yard, and store garden furniture, and unhook outdoor faucets before the first frost. We stack wood for the fireplace. Whatever we don’t know what to do with, we conceal beneath a large, blue tarp, tucked away in the corner of the garden.
Summer tourists have gone. Hunting season has begun. In camouflage, with guns propped onto four wheelers, hunters populate the hills north of town, scoping for a moose with a legal antler span. In the mountains, caribou and Dall sheep and bears forage for food before the snow sets in. Closer to home, we comb the slopes for tart blueberries and high bush cranberries, the last of what the earth will yield to us, which we save for jams and sauces and scones and pancakes,
I settle, after the tumult of the busy summer season, to enjoy the colors. I go for long walks, with a pair of dogs and sweeping vistas from higher elevations. With a bit of luck, I am rewarded with a glimpse of Denali’s peak on the horizon, across a tundra turned flaming orange. Autumn is achingly short lived. But just long enough to remind me of yet another reason I live in Alaska.