Wednesday, September 23, 2009
My wife and I were on a drive the other day along towards evening. It was only early September, but fall was already in the air- and on the ground too for that matter. All the grasses are well on their way to turning shades of yellow and brown and the leaves on the cottonwood trees are dropping at an alarming rate. Already one of the trees close by is half bare, and I shudder to think what it will look like in another week or two.
Those who have lived here for any length of time know all too well the first signs of fall. You wake up one morning in mid-August and there is a chill in the air that wasn't there the day before. It's hard to explain, but you can even feel it in that first rain after the change happens. It's colder and usually accompanied by a wind that whips the waves into a grey-white frenzy. At first just a few leaves start to color and curl on the ends- the Alder and Cottonwood trees initially. The magenta flowers of the fireweed bushes have dried up and turned to whispy white feathers up and down the spine of the plant. Down by Coletts Cupboard the bright orange berries of the Mountain Ash tree have ripened and attracted the attention of dozens of crows. I try my best to ignore all the outward signs, but there is a sense of dread that comes over me. The fishing season is winding down and with it my only semi-sure employment. I don't look forward to the long, cold winter that lies ahead. Everything in me wants to follow the strings of sand hill cranes as they migrate southward. I feel an ancient need to gather food in preparation for the winter. I almost wish I still burned firewood so I could have the sense of accomplishment that a full wood shed brings. I satisfy myself with putting away the spoons and hoochies and flashers of my chosen trade and gathering my clothes and food that I haven't eaten from the boat. I look through the log book that I've kept all season and wish the weather had been better and that I had spent more time on the water or taken a little more risk and gone where there might have been more fish. It's an annual ritual. I don't know if I've ever been satisfied with the effort that I put forth. I can only hope that next year will be better.
I do like the fall- at least I think I do. It certainly looks pretty before all the leaves have fallen, and there is the prospect of hunting deer in the months ahead. The tour ships will all be gone soon and Hoonah will settle into a slower pace. I guess that's a good thing. We need to rest up before winter. If the past three years are any indication of things to come, we'll be getting plenty of exercize with the snow shovels.