Sunday, September 28, 2008

good-bye fall, hello winter

fall is probably my favorite time of year. the yellow aspen and birch leaves against a blue sky. crisp clear days, the first whiffs of wood smoke in the air. the changing high bush cranberry foliage that paints the woods behind my house in an earthy red. but perhaps i love fall most for another reason - its length. A Fairbanks autumn is short, 2 or 3 weeks maybe, where colors change quickly and leaves drop overnight.

this morning we woke to this:

our first snow. it's not much, and it's wet. it won't stick or last, but it is an undeniable sign of what is to come. we won't get the cold temps or really dark days or even a lot more snow for a while yet. but last night, winter crept in silently and with the exception of a few fits and starts perhaps, is here until April.

i gotta say, i love winter too.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

simple pleasures

sometimes in this complicated world, it's good to be reminded of life's simpler pleasures. kids have a way of focusing you in on these things. Anna and i spent some time together yesterday afternoon after work while her mom was working late. i was stressed, tired, feeling WAY behind, yet Anna managed to convince me that sitting in front of the stove watching cookies bake was an extremely valuable use of time.

she was right.

Monday, September 8, 2008

the big world

every year, Cob and i grab the dog, pack the car, load the canoe, and head south to Tangle Lakes. this tradition started for me in 1997, before Cob even, when Phyllis and Chase took me on my first canoe camping trip.

and i was hooked.

since then, things have changed. My life took turns i never thought it would. i met Cob. P & C took a hiatus from the Labor Day week-end trips for a few years. i made new friends. one thing has stayed the same. the great big world of Tangle Lakes.

on the globe, Tangle Lakes is a very small place. but when you're there, it's huge. a great big and dramatic sky, with storms brewing and dying all around you.

the alpine tundra is literally alive with tart cranberries, bright red bear berry leaves, ancient caribou trails, migrating swans, and peaceful waters.

i only come here in September, when the long summer days are on the cusp of falling into winter through the brief space that is autumn in Alaska. warm days in short sleeves give way to hard frosts at night.
for the last two years, friends have come with us to this place to share a few days away, and this year, P &C joined us again after 5 years.

evenings are spent around a campfire, knitting, drinking wine, talking politics with like-minded souls.

two years ago, Cob and i watched as hundreds of swans gathered in the bay behind our campsite before their long migration south. this year, we witnessed something new. we arrived at our usual campsite in the evening just as swans begin to trickle in. the next morning, they all left in flurry of white wings, only to return to the bay the same time that evening. not sure where they went, but it was fun to contemplate their daily adventures.

as i walked around this campsite, whose corners i've come to know so well, i found myself taking stock of the little things that had changed. the marmot jaw that had been here for the last several years, embedded in the tundra at the top of our site, was gone. the berries were not quite ripe since we were there a little early. the swans were doing something new. the grayling were still biting. the water a little higher. old friends were with us again. new friends were with us again. nuchie still wants to sleep right up against me in the tent. the hot chocolate still tastes just as good with the cool bite of evening. and the great big dramatic sky can still hold my attention for hours.

and in the fading light of the each day, i hope i'll see this place again.