Friday, September 23, 2011

Finding Balance during the Autumnal Equinox

      For those of you who are not students of geography, the Autumnal Equinox is the time in the year when day and night are equal.  This is the official end of summer and beginning of fall.  In Alaska, traditional fall weather started a month ago.  Some say that Alaska's four seasons include spring, fall, earlier winter and winter, because we have such a short cool summer.  Others say, "It's a good summer when it falls on a weekend."   here on Seward this is the time of year when the Pacific hurricanes, called typhoons, and tropical storms sweep into the north pacific and slam the Alaskan coast with rain and wind.   We've had three such storms since the end of August, each more intense than the previous.   intense wind and heavy rain has knocked down trees and raised the lake level to it's highest in two years.   Our neighbors had trees down in their yards, and a plane moored on the lake flipped over and broke a wing.  Steady 20-30 mph winds lashed the house for 12 hours Monday with gusts over 50 mph.   That's when we're glad for every bit caulking, bracing and hurricane clips we used to make this house tight and strong.   We live in the teeth of gale; the price we pay for living on this fine lake in the north country.
      Things are changing on the lake this first day of fall.  More ducks are stopping by like the grebe that has take up resident in our front view.   Thousands of cranes cackling their way south passed overhead in long ragged v's of migration.   The bears are off in the hills hunting berries, so we haven't seen then for several weeks now.  During a walk along the south shore we found no fresh sign of bears and under the cottonwoods, they had stripped devil's club berries down to the last seed.
     The devils club is a beautiful but viscous plant with a stalk covered with half inch spines all the way up to it's rhubarb-sized leaves which are also covered with spines.   The berries grow in cone shaped clusters atop the stalk which stands four to eight feet tall.  And they don't stand alone.  Devil's club grows in dense stands so the broad leaves create a roof over the the forest floor of an acre or more.   This time of year the leaves are bright yellow and seem to light up the woods during the dark wet days fall.  Those berries must be tasty for bears to go throw what they must to get them,  and even they have spines.