Sunday, September 22, 2013

Autumnal Equinox and the devil's workshop

According to the desktop calendar today is the first day of autumn.  The calendar on the wall simply reads “Autumn begins.”  Neither is truly accurate.  Depending upon how one marks the beginning of the transitional season, autumn began up here three weeks to a month ago with the onset of a typically cool and rainy weather pattern.  Here in the Interior that rain has already changed to snow and though the ground is yet too warm for that snow to stick more than a few hours, snow is nonetheless more indicative of winter than of autumn.  On the 16th I shot a nice photograph here at work depicting the golden foliage of autumn.

 The very next day I captured an image of the season's first snow-fall.

No, today is not the first day of autumn, but it is the autumnal equinox.  Today the plane of the axis of the earth is parallel to that of the axis of the sun, giving both the northern and summer hemispheres approximately equal amounts of darkness and daylight.  No matter how I define it, there is no question that summer is gone and today’s constant snowfall is proof enough that sure enough winter is well on its way. 
Snow falling earlier today.

  It was certainly an interesting and challenging summer for this old-school Alaskan. First, it was late in coming.   Usually the trails are bare of snow by the middle of April but this year I was running dogs on a sled in early May and the ice didn’t break up on the Tanana River until the 20th of that month.  June was hectic as I tried to catch up on long-delayed spring cleaning and tried to make the place reasonably presentable for Trish and my June 15th wedding.  Our honeymoon was short-lived as two days later the Kanuti wild-fire burned less than 2 miles southeast of our place, resulting in our front yard serving as a refugee camp for displaced sled dogs.  That excitement was no sooner calmed than I had to return to work.

My R&R in July was completely dominated by the Stuart Creek 2 wildfire that threatened our little community and forced us to evacuate the property for a couple of days.  In August I tried to catch up on some of the summer projects that had been postponed, but with the onset of rainy weather limited the work I could perform outside.  I was able to get a henhouse together and put a pitched roof over the dog food shed.  The highest priority project, the importance of which was punctuated by July's fire, was mounting dog boxes on the trailer to increase our dog transportation capacity.  The paint on the boxes wasn't fully dried before I had to return to my workplace.

 Things here at work have been equally as hectic as affairs at home.  Summer is a busy season in Alaska’s oil patch and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, and that makes it particularly hectic at my own workplace.  I can't recall a time when it's ever been so difficult to keep up with the pace of my job.

Even with all of August's activities I still don't feel as well prepared for winter as usual.   The unusually hot and dry summer resulted in local crop failures.  Shortages of hay have been noted by horse and livestock owners throughout the valley and straw for bedding dogs is also hard to acquire.  We usually go through 1 bale of straw per dog through the course of typical winter.  We currently have about half that amount stored in our shed and I may have to purchase imported straw at greatly inflated prices just to get us through this coming season.   Though wood chips can be substituted, straw provides considerably better insulation against the cold.

This coming R&R I will need to spend a week doing a work-related clinical rotation with Georgetown Scott County EMS in Kentucky.  According to their weather forecast I’ll be enjoying summer-like daytime temperatures well up into the 70s.  As cool and wet as the weather has been here at home I think I’m going to really enjoy that.  During my October R&R I’ll be spending several days in Anchorage for our annual medical refresher training, including a pediatric advanced life support refresher course.  In between those things, I need to find and purchase straw, clean up the yard and prepare it for freeze-up, do some significant repair work on our snow-machine, service both vehicles for the upcoming winter and more.  I honestly don’t know if I’ll be able to get it all done or not, especially since we are also falling behind in early season training. 

Ready or not, the autumnal equinox is a marking point in the flow of time, and the passage of time waits for no person.  A summer such as the one so recently past reminds us that we can’t always control the circumstances of our lives, and when those circumstances tumble out of control all one can do is shrug, make a few jokes and then just go with the flow.  If idle hands are indeed the devil's work-shop he'll find little to work with around our place.

No comments:

Post a Comment