Monday, September 17, 2012

Fireweed: Alaska's Summer Countdown

Halfway there: wretched jaunty little thing
As the car hood starts to sport delicate frost patterns in the morning and the sun starts getting up later than we do, Alaskans are forced to admit that the default state of our State is nigh; as certain throne-straddling individuals are wont to mention, Winter Is Coming. It shouldn't come as a surprise, though; even before the termination dust starts to whiten the very tops of the mountain ranges, Alaska gives us an easy visual reminder by which to more accurately dread the end of Summer. This is called fireweed. While not the actual State flower, it is still a big part of the eco-tourist's picture of Alaska, in much the same way that palm trees are not Hawaii's state plant but are still inextricably linked with one's mental picture of the place.  
But this bright pink blossom is no docile tropical perennial, that will reliably stay the same shape and size while your back is turned; these sneaky devils are countdown timers to their own ultimate demise.

Nothing if not literal, they spring back from their dormant state in mid-Spring, but aren't up to blossoming until genuine Summer has arrived in June. Then begins the merciless pink indicator, creeping up the stalk like a dynamite fuse until late August, when it starts to get chilly at night.

Termination dust: You can actually see
Winter storming the barricades
Now, as it's September and time to get out the coats and scarves, it's too late -- Fall arrived with force on the 5th, with a wind storm so ferocious I experienced my first-ever paid emergency State closure. I got to stay home, one of the few homes with power and internet service, snuggling with my Bun, marathoning White Collar and generally living the dream while the cats tore wildly around the house. My smugness could not outweigh the inescapable promise of the fireweed, though; hearing birdsong, feeling sunlight, wearing anything revealing, or going outside out of anything but necessity is all over for another nine months. While the earth carries this next summer to term, I will just have to sit in my sweaters, saving up enough spite and bile to resent the fireweed again next time. 


  1. How lovely. How well written and lyrical. :-)

    Down south, in Minnesota, we feel the call as well. I put on my first cashmere-mix sweater today (second hand! yay!) The leaves are turning, the wind is no longer a "breeze", and if I close my eyes I can see my down coat and knee-high boots...

    Heavens help us. Here it comes. :-)


  2. you know, I don't think I'd like the fireweed either.

    winter does mean scarves, though, and I love those.

    1. Yeah you do! I saw the Princely Shopping post...tell him no fair! Also, magpies are a total byword for "easily distracted kleptos", and everyone knows it. :D

  3. Oh, yes.

    Yesterday morning: 42 degrees.

    Not too bad.

    WIth the right coat.

    And hat.

    Warm socks.

    And keeping your face to the sun.


  4. It is spring Down Under achoo!!!!