This world. This place. This life.

Do you know what this means?


All summer long, Alaska residents keep an eye on the fireweed.  We look forward to its blooming––it’s a beautiful sign of summer.

But it’s also a timepiece, a marker of summer’s too-speedy passage here in the north. Fireweed begins blooming at the bottom of its stalk, and when the blossoms reach the top, we have six more weeks until winter.

Yeah, you read that right.  Six more weeks until winter.  Autumn is a blink-and-you-missed-it season here.  A few years ago we had our first measurable snowfall on September 30.

And that’s here in one of the more temperate parts of Alaska.

Alaska’s extremes of scarcity and abundance push those of us who live here to treasure what we have when we have it.

Summer lasts from late May to late August (if we’re lucky).  We squeeze as much outdoor activity into the summer as we possibly can.  It’s not virtue.  It’s survival.  The longer I live here, the more I feel compelled to take advantage of summer while it’s here.

In the winter, the tiny mid-day windows of light have a similar effect.  If there’s sun available in the winter, Alaskans want to be outside in it, no matter the temperature (within reason).

Alaskans are a crazy bunch of hikers and skiers and kayakers and pursuers of all kinds of outdoor activities.   I don’t do any of these things.  Well, maybe a little bit of hiking.

But I do feel the pull of this place.  Not only its beauty.  Not only the peer pressure of all the forty-something (and older) wilderness women I know.

The pull is a whisper, saying, “If you want to make it here, you have to throw yourself into it. You have to love it, know it, live it.”

15 thoughts on “Do you know what this means?

  1. “If you want to make it here, you have to throw yourself into it. You have to love it, know it, live it.”

    Wow! Sound just like New York. . . 😉

  2. We’re so different down here in Seattle. We don’t get that hot (78 feels like boiling here, a sign my blood has thinned too much) and we don’t get that cold (40s). It is pleasant all year round. I think of you gals up in Alaska because I often feel like I’m spoiled with this climate, and it asks us to suffer so little.

    One of these days I’m going to Alaska. I suspect it will be after we procure a motorcycle.

    • I think our summer is very similar to yours. We do get colder & darker in the winter, but it’s just part of living here. Early in my time here, someone told me that AK is the kind of place that scours a person, like a glacier grinding at the rock in its path. I think that’s been true for me.

      When you do come to AK, be sure to use your blogging contacts here–including me! And remember, PNWD district assembly is in Anchorage in May 2012. You could take the ferry from Bellingham… 🙂

  3. Oh, this is serendipitous indeed, to have just subscribed today and be welcomed with this particular post. Fireweed is my favorite flower, symbolic of Alaska & home to me. (And is also Bear the Boat Cat’s favorite vegetation to chomp on.) I didn’t know any of the timepiece info, so thanks on sharing a fun lesson with this one.

    Yes, I’m definitely pleased to have crossed paths with your blog and reflections, Heather! Hope you’re enjoying a lovely weekend.

    • I bet your sense of summer is tied to fishing, right? When does the fishing season end for you?

      And you’re a new addition to the group of Alaskans who inspire me to get off the couch, and really live. 🙂

  4. I have never had the pleasure to read your blog, but I have stumbled upon Tele’s and a few others from Alaska. You have a wonderful attitude about the seasons. I can’t lie…it affects me. I find myself getting depressed when I don’t see sun for a few days. I’ve lived in Norway and Seattle and after living in Oslo, I thought I was in the tropics when I moved back to Seattle. Now twenty years later, I packed up my boxes again and moved south to where the sun shines every day. People ask me if I miss the seasons. I wish I did…but I think I’ve seen my share. I do think that firewood is absolutely exquisite. Didn’t know anything about them. Nice to meet you!

    • Hi, Annie! You’re quite the traveler! I think everywhere we choose to live teaches us something about ourselves. Liesl and I wonder sometimes what it would be like to live without seasons–just warm beautiful weather all the time! Of course, our vision of such a place includes lots of pretty drinks with little umbrellas. 🙂

      • “Liesl and I wonder sometimes what it would be like to live without seasons–just warm beautiful weather all the time!”

        One word – Boring. . .

        Seasons are the spice of life, or perhaps I should say the seasoning of life. 🙂

  5. Pingback: Just say “yes” | Nagoonberry

  6. Hmm…I sure love the light. I didn’t know you Alaskan’s mark the summer by the tippy top blossoms of the fireweed. I’m on Whidbey Island and ours is making its move. I’d be like Annie I think, move to the sun, maybe the SW…but not sure I could live there without the sound of the water. Warmth and water. Yeah – that place with the colorful drinks! Good idea!

  7. Extremely small. Cool! Thanks for the link – and your blog.

  8. Pingback: The Liebster Meets Alaska Book Week « Hooked

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