Author's note: Writing time is being consumed a little by editing time. Sorry about that. Things may be a bit slower on the "posting" aspect for a while, as I work on editing for the book. I hope you can all bear with me for a bit....
It's been a beautiful fall here.
We deserve it, after last year. Last year we came out of winter into a late, chill spring, and endured a cold summer, a raw overcast fall and an early, bitterly frigid winter. By the time we got to this spring, we were getting a bit cranky - well, I was anyway - and it didn't help that this spring was late and unseasonably cold as well. It was quite a pain lambing in it, not least of the reasons being the incessant worry - til things warmed up - that the lambs would be suffering or at risk.
This summer, though - glorious. It was hot. I mean ACTUAL hot, not just Alaska hot. We had temps over 90 this summer in the valley - the first time that's happened since I moved here. We had a whole week where it was in the upper 80's when I went home at night, every evening, consecutively. I actually used the air conditioning in my truck. I know! Amazing!
Normally, I am not especially heat-tolerant, most particularly when it's combined with humidity; that heavy, muggy weather blankets me in oppression and saps my energy and my will to do anything. (I realise the irony of this, given that I used to make my living grooming racehorses on the east coast - in the summer. I think it was the horses that made that tolerable... they make everything more enjoyable, don't they?) But this summer - wonder of wonders - I actually revelled in hot, humid weather. Revelled. Just a little, mind you, but actual revelling occurred. I kid you not.
Maybe because we'd just recovered, by dint of our beautiful hot summer, from what seemed like 19 months of winter - winter-winter, spring-winter, summer-winter and then winter-winter again - most of us were a little reluctant, maybe even a little apprehensive, to see fall coming this year. Because warm and glorious and restorative as this summer was, maybe we weren't quiiiiite ready for winter to come back again. I admit I was disquieted when I had yellow leaves falling in my driveway - just a few, mind , you but there they were- in July. Could that mean an early, cold winter coming? No, I told myself. That's just heat stress. La la la la la, I can't hear you!
Denial ain't just a river in Egypt.
Still, you face what you have to face. So I braced myself for a cold, hard fall and a colder, harder winter. After all, I did it last year, I can do it again, right?
As it turns out, so far I haven't had to.
It's the 28th of October today. The leaves finally all came down about 2 weeks ago; there were actual green leaves - GREEN, I'm telling you - still on some of the last hold-out trees until about 3 weeks ago. So far, my lake has yet to freeze. We've had one day where there was a thin scrim of ice on the surface, but it melted off by afternoon. There have been four days when the neighboring marsh - shallower and faster to freeze - has had that same thin, clear crust of ice on it, just for the day. The swans only left my lake 10 days ago. There are still ducks flying around my house, swift and sturdy as they launch themselves through the air on fast-beating wings. Last night it rained. I'll grant you there was about an hour during the middle of the day when there was a sleety look to it, when there was a faint scurf of white on the grass in the lees of the hedges, but that didn't last. By nightfall it was gone, melted by rain. In late October. In Alaska.
This morning there is the faintest ice-fractal on the surface of the water dish on my deck, but none on the lake or the marsh. No frost slicks my deck or clings to the trees. It's cool out, certainly - 33 degrees on my thermometer - but that's nothing. Nothing at all.
We had a winter, a few years back, where it never went below zero at my house all winter. To zero, yes, twice - but never below. It snowed, and the snow stayed, but it was mainly in the teens and twenties all winter. None of this 40-below-zero crap for THAT winter.... and certainly none of that never-gets-warmer-than-twenty-below-zero-for-three-weeks-strait nonsense. My lake didn't ice til the tenth of December. Given that I have some congenital abnormality that has me convinced that winter is over as of about February tenth, for me winter was only three months long that year. I enjoyed every minute of it - but springtime in Alaska is so full of vigor and life and burgeoning light that you can't regret the fade of winter, no matter how much you like it.
Hmmmm.... I think I could live with a reprise of that, this year.
This won't last forever, this long, gorgeous slide toward dark and cold. Sooner or later we'll be in short days and snow and ice. But for now... it's been a long, slow fall into winter.