Saturday, August 4, 2007

Subtle Signs of Seasonal Change

A colorful sunrise may not seem like a big deal, but the one I photographed this morning was more than just a pretty moment in the eastern sky. During the past 10 days that I've been at work, the signs of dwindling summer have been increasingly apparent. Not the least of those signs is the fact that it is now getting truly dark at night. Not just the dim twilight that passes for night under the Midnight Sun, but the honest darkness of true night.

The return of true night isn't the only sign that the season is changing. There has been a change in the weather pattern. Now, rather than blistering hot days under most blue skies we see more cloud cover, and thicker dense clouds. Rain is becoming a daily though not unexpected occurence. August is historically the wettest month of the year up here.

The fireweed has bloomed all the way to the top, a sign that many Elders say signifies that frost and the first snowfalls, called "termination dust" up here, are only about 6 weeks away. The foxtails have already bushed out as they've dropped their seeds, and turned brown.

Two weeks ago I was enjoying ripe raspberries picked in my own yard, and now the peak of the blueberry season has passed. The high-bush cranberries are in full color and the low-bush cranberries are starting to show some color. Here and there I see patches of yellow amongst the green leaves of the birch and aspen trees.

The wildlife is being much more active, too. There has been an increase in bear sightings, especially in the vicinity of the Little Chena River crossing on the Chena Hot Springs Road. Around my work site moose, porcupine and small game animals have been spotted much more frequently than just a week ago.

Human activity is also increasing. People seem to be focusing more on the myriad little tasks that MUST be accomplished before the ground freezes and the snow flies. Homesteaders living near my workplace are busy cutting, splitting and stacking firewood, in hopes of having that task finished before moose hunting season begins. Among some of my friends and correspondents there seems to be a sense of anticipation. In just the past couple of days mushers sending me Emails have mentioned that they are looking forward to fall training.

Let there be no confusion. It isn't autumn yet. There isn't yet a chill in the air, they days are long and warm and the world is predominately green. The critters are feeding heavily, putting on weight they will need later when the weather truly does turn. Nonetheless, the signs are clear. Summer is starting to wind down and fall is just around the corner.

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