Nagoonberry

This world. This place. This life.


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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.”